“Is there any chance I could direct an orchestra piece for the Fall Concert?”
“Do you think I might be able to get my picture taken in the front seat of your police car, officer?”
“Would it be okay if I marched with the band for a parade?”
“Can I ride on the Zamboni between periods of the hockey game?”
You might be wondering how I got to do the things shown in the pictures above. Well, believe it or not, all I did was ask. Yep…that was it.
If you look up everything that Jesus says about prayer in the Bible, you might be surprised to find (like I was) that he so often focuses on asking from God.
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
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. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you fathers, if your son asks fora fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 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!
Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
Or what about the second half of the famous prayer that Jesus taught his disciples:
Give us today our daily bread / Forgive our debts, as we forgive our debtors / Lead us not into temptation / Deliver us from the evil one.
So much asking!
At first, all this asking might make a person a little uncomfortable. We’ve all been told that God isn’t some divine Santa Claus who exists to satisfy our desires, so what’s going on? A few things to notice…
- First of all, if you are someone who loves and follows Jesus, your desires will be increasingly shaped by God’s heart. Put bluntly: a maturing Christian isn’t asking God for a pony. James writes, “You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” A good question to ask is, “Is my life about God’s kingdom or my own?” That will help determine whether your prayers are about God’s kingdom or your own. The more you are shaped by the revelation of God’s Heart in your life (through God’s Word, the Holy Spirit, the Church), the more you will care like God’s heart cares. As this happens, God says ask away! Asking becomes powerful when the heart of Christ is alive in the body of Christ.
- Prayer changes the pray-er. Praying can actually wake up our desires and can be a catalyst for action. Those who don’t care don’t ask. And those who care, ask, and care more with each asking. Perhaps Jesus’ consistent invitations to ask are his pleadings with us to care and to act! Pray for your enemy and you may start caring about reconciliation. Pray for the hungry and you may start caring that they have food to eat. Pray for your wife and you may be moved to be a source of joy and encouragement for her. In this mysterious way God often answers our prayers through the praying, because prayer is not only a reflection of your heart but also a directing of it. As Eugene Peterson says, “We become what we are called to be by praying.”
- Maybe the most important thing to realize is that the asking kind of prayer is an act of trust, dependence, and worship. No one who is self-sufficient or self-reliant asks for anything, but the person who knows the good character of God relies on him like the branches of a fruit tree depend upon the trunk—and so they ask. Making requests in prayer is acknowledging God’s generosity, God’s unlimited abundance, God’s ability to provide, and God’s loving heart towards his children. The heart that does not ask does not yet know God as He wants to be known.
Son, I am convinced that God actually wants his people to ask more than we do, not less. Though it was uncomfortable at first, I’ve gotten in the habit of making requests to God on a regular basis. Just as I was surprised by what came of asking a police officer to sit in his car, or asking to march with the marching band, I’ve also been astonished by all that comes from making requests in prayer.
So ask already!
Here are some suggestions:
– For eyes to see and ears to hear.
– For opportunities to serve (the funny thing is, asking this will makes you aware of all the opportunities to serve that have always been around you).
– For joy and compassion.
– For wisdom and wonder.
– That God’s Word would become a delight, like the author of Psalm 119.
– For encouragement and strength for struggling friends and family.
– Good things for your enemies.
– Hope for young people wrestling depression.
– For a tight reign on your tongue (words are powerful!).