Do you remember when you were growing up and you asked your first grade teacher, “Can I go to the bathroom?”
You remember her snarky reply, right?
“I don’t know, can you go to the bathroom?”
As if your ability to use the restroom were in question.
Your first-grader brain thought, “My ability isn’t the question. I am wanting your permission!” Unfortunately, all that came out was, “I mean, may I use the restroom?,” giving your teacher the satisfaction of having corrected your grammar with her sarcasm.
Minus the snarky teachers and sarcasm, Luke 5 tells a story where a similar scenario plays out.
While he (Jesus) was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. – Luke 5:12-13 ESV
Jesus’ ability wasn’t in question. His permission was.
When it comes to God working in and through our lives, I think about it in two ways:
1) God’s ability isn’t in question. His permission (His will) is.
The leper in Luke 5 was making a request of Jesus in the same way Jesus made a request of the Father right before His betrayal, arrest and execution. Jesus prayed, “If it’s Your will…”
Jesus and the leper understood that God’s ability isn’t in question. His will is.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that the leper probably had greater faith than many of us (myself included)! Judging by the confidence with which he spoke to Jesus, I think he had the audacity to believe that if Jesus possessed the ability to heal him and chose not to, there was a reason behind it that the leper would choose to trust.
I want that kind of faith!
2) God’s ability isn’t in question. My permission is.
You are not stronger than God, but to a degree, you can hold Him back. Think about the times where Jesus went through a town and “marveled at their unbelief.”
Matthew 13:58 says, “He did not do many great works there, because of their unbelief.”
Another way to look at it is that their resistance and lack of faith didn’t make Jesus unable to perform the miracle, but it prevented Him from doing so. He not only had the ability to do miracles, but He also had the desire. Their hard hearts pushed Him out.
So which is it for you?
Are you asking God for permission, believing in His supernatural power?
Is He asking you for permission, wanting to work in your life, but being pushed away by a hard or unbelieving heart?
When you pray, tell God, “YOU CAN,” effectively reminding yourself of His ability, and granting Him permission to do the supernatural in your life.