When I was a child, I used to get really nervous about asking my Dad for anything – even advise. He had this most frustrating habit of responding to my requests with questions of his own. Questions that would make me really think about what I was asking of him. Tough questions.
“Do you really need it?”
And then there was the dreaded, “Do you think you deserve it?”
I was young and in a hurry. I had needs. Why couldn’t he just say, “yes” and let me get back to whatever it was I was doing? Later in life, as a parent, I learned that the answer to that question was Dad loved us too much. Too much to just give us whatever our hearts desired. Dad wanted us to learn some hard lessons about the differences between “needs” and “wants.” Differences we would have to understand if we were going to make wise choices between the two as adults. Out of love, he always provided us with everything we needed. Out of love, he also protected us from our potentially harmful “wants.”
In Matthew, Chapter 7, Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”
As a young Christian, I kind of figured that meant I could “ask” my heavenly Father for anything I wanted and I’d “receive” it. I was really into the “name it and claim it” brand of theology. So were a lot of other people I knew. And, like them, I got so frustrated when the items on my “wish list” didn’t come pouring in from the heavenly storehouse. When I finally took the time to stop fussing with God about His lack of answers to my prayers and reexamine the verses I’d pinned those prayers on, I found the following in the continuation of Jesus’ words,
“For what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”
My Dad was imperfect just like the rest of us. But he gave good gifts to us. Always meeting our needs. Asking us questions to help us examine and make wise choices about our wants. “How much more” will my heavenly Father give out of His perfect love and the eternal plans He has for my good? The problem has never been God’s faithfulness to His promises, but my expectations of His responses. I was expecting things I wanted. He responded with the things I needed. And He responded with the most precious gift of all – Himself. The creator of heaven and earth bent low to whisper in my ear those tough questions a truly loving Father will ask of His child.
I don’t know if any of you are struggling with what you perceive to be unanswered prayers. I know we’ve gone through times where we wondered if God was even listening anymore. But in the midst of all those struggles, I was reminded that God always answers my prayers. It may not be the way I think He should, but His answers always come. And I need to be open to whatever form His answers might take. To be aware of what’s going on around me; to see what God is doing and to be responsive to it. And if God’s response is the probing questions of a loving Father, I need to be quiet enough to listen. And when I don’t understand His answers, I need to have enough faith in Him to trust that they are still the right answers for me – for my eternal well being. To trust Him. To trust in His promise to always, “. . . meet all (my) needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 (NIV)
Please contact me with questions or comments about Notes from the Valley.Sheltered under His wing and overwhelmed by His love, Steve, steveh.rbis (at) sbcglobal.net