In my praying, I don't ask God for all the things I'd like to ask him for. I know He'll say no to some things. I already ask for too much. Some things I'd ask for are selfish. Other things I've asked for a hundred times and I suppose He's tired of my begging. My mom tells that she was taught as a child to never ask for things when visiting a house. "I couldn't even ask for a drink of water," she says. Funny thing is, my mom raised us the same. I remember Ms Lola, a sweet elderly lady whose house we would visit when I was small. She had a candy dish in plain sight on her coffee table. I always hoped that she'd offer me a butterscotch, but I sure never asked.
I've impressed the same manners upon my kids too. I never though, expected those same manners from the kids who came to visit our house.
The first church Jason pastored was in Chilton, Texas. We lived in a parsonage. Much to my delight, our house became the local hangout for the kids in town. By our second year in Chilton, I was teaching second grade. The kids from school would be waiting for me in our backyard when I got home. They were usually hungry.
One four year old, Santos who didn't know a lick of English, would come in and open my fridge and would scan for sweets. (Santos didn't know how to knock either but that's beside the point). I taught Santos, amongst many things, how to say "I'm hungry. Can I have a snack?" He quickly forgot my suggested request, but would come to me, and with both hands pat his belly, and would say quite forcibly "Pasteles!" (which means 'sweets' in Spanish).
I've never forgotten that kid. He knew what he wanted. My kids know what they want, but like my mom and her mom before her we've taught them not to ask supposing it's rude to request anything as a guest. HE ASKED. In fact, I taught him to ask. And while he didn't ask in the format I'd suggested, he asked, knowing that I'd give him good things.
.....because of your shameless audacity....he will get up and give you what you need Luke 11:8
Have you ever read that? Even though I've read Luke 11 a number of times, I've somehow missed those two words.
Boldness without shame.
It's in the passage in chapter 11 where Jesus is teaching the disciples how to pray. Basically, after confessing the Father as holy, the prayer gets bossy. It says something like,
Lead us not... Deliver us..
I was reminded this morning that a lot of Bible fellows just cut to the chase and told God exactly what they wanted.
In prayer we are guests in the presence of God, but more than that, we are His children.
...See what kind of love the Father has given us, that we should be called the children of God; and so we are. I John 3:1
If you look at chapter 13 of Psalms, it says: Look on me and answer, O LORD.
No "Pretty please". Not "If you don't mind". The Psalmist was so intimate with God that the pleasantries seemed less important than going right to the heart of the matter.
Jesus includes his teaching on prayer in Luke 11 with this:
9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Did I always give Santos everything he asked for? I didn't. I gave him what I thought he needed, no doubt getting it wrong now and then. Our requests are made to a Holy God who knows all that we need. We trust that our Father knows how to give good gifts to His children even when what he gives isn't what we asked for.
If I unwittingly ask for the approval of men, the answer that I get, may not be the approval of men that I sought. God may remind me that if "I am trying to please man, then I am not a servant of God".
His answer is good.
In the past I have asked for patience. I've never once been felt zapped with it. Instead, God teaches me longsuffering. In His teaching, I feel his closeness. And I know that patience isn't so much a mastering of my feelings as it is a concentrated focus on God's help and presence in times that I wait.
God's answers are always good.
So I'll ask for all the things I see fit, for the things I desire. God knows how to say no. And if he does say no, then I trust that no is the answer I need. The more I learn to go to God with my requests and the desires of my heart, the closer I'll grow to Him, trusting that he'll change my heart about those things I ask which I don't need and those things which aren't beneficial.
And so very many times He says yes.
The more time we spend with God, asking, and listening, the better we know His will (the answer).
Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16