(Jesus said): “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:7-11 (NRSV)
“Now you’re asking for it!” How many times did we hear that phrase directed at us when we were children? How many times have we said it to our own kids? It was always a phrase that meant you were asking for trouble, and you were about to receive it.
Kids ask for some pretty outrageous things. My son once begged me for a pair of horrendously ugly $100 skater pants- during a summer in which he miraculously grew from about 5’6” to about 6’ in the span of about three months. Even had I been foolish enough to spend that kind of money on a rather (in my mind anyway) ugly and impractical pair of pants, by the end of the summer they wouldn’t have fit. It was better for him- and for my wallet at the time- for him to wear the cargo shorts he already had in the summer, and for us to seek out more sensible and affordable pants to wear in the fall.
I wanted my son to have serviceable and affordable clothing, and for him not to be mocked too severely by his friends for his clothing choices.
Sometimes what we want and what we need are two different things.
Sometimes we come to God asking for silly or impractical things like the awful skater pants my son asked for when he was fourteen. Sometimes we ask for things that appear to be good on the surface, but would ultimately be harmful for us. Sometimes we ask to be delivered from trials that are difficult and painful, but necessary for us to learn and grow into being the people God created us to be.
We don’t see the complete picture. God does, and He is out for our ultimate good. He is equipping us for eternal life as well as for life right now. So sometimes His answer to our requests needs to be no.
It has been said that the purpose of prayer is not so much to come to God asking for gifts in the way that a child might make out a list for Santa Claus, but to come to God and talk with Him, to let Him speak to us and align our wills with His will.
God does hear our prayers, and through our prayers He does transform our hearts so that we desire the things that He desires for us. Even if we don’t always get what we ask for, God provides what we need- abundantly, fully and always.