It’s early November and Christmas decorations are popping up in every store. Christmas music is on the radio, my niece is making her list for Santa, and before long the holidays will be here, leading us adults to also consider what we want most. This got me thinking about the things we ask God for. Most of the time it’s everyday things like safe travel and help to make a decision. And then there are those (hopefully rare) instances when we get on our knees before God because some tragedy has hit us where we live, or because we’re hoping to avert one. There is nothing wrong with any of these prayers—they’re important. But why do we so rarely ask God for something we really want? I’m beginning to realize there are times when God might like to hear these requests as well.
I grew up believing that God was unkind, miserly. Since I had it in my head that He didn’t want to give me anything good, I didn’t ask for anything extravagant. Asking for big things bordered on prosperity gospel, and that was a road I didn’t (and still don’t) want to travel down.
Praying for things I wanted also felt selfish. With all the horrible things going on in the world, how dare I ask for something that seems to serve only me? The opposite of prosperity gospel seems to be the belief that you don’t deserve much of anything at all. I am beginning to realize there is a big difference between exercising “faith” to get what you want, and praying for a desire that God has put in your heart.
Regardless, it’s scary for me to think about asking God for the things I want most—what if He declines my request? To be sure, there have been times when He’s done that, but in hindsight I can see it was for my good. When something is pressing on your heart and mind, it can be scary to ask for it. If He says no, you’re shattered into a million pieces. So, what’s the alternative?
The alternative is not asking God for much at all, or asking Him only for the bare minimum to avoid disappointment. But from what I can see in the gospel, He’s ready and willing to provide “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think,” with one caveat: it’s for His glory, not ours. It can be easy to fall into the routine of simple prayers prayed for our benefit, not meant to advance the kingdom in any way. In James 4:3 he says that we “ask and don’t have because you ask with evil intentions, to waste it on your own cravings.” What if, instead, we started to walk in step with the Holy Spirit? What if we prayed and asked God to give us the desires of our hearts, and then brought those requests to Him?
I was reading Acts 3 and was struck by the story of the man who was crippled. Every day someone took him to the Beautiful Gate of the temple in the hopes of receiving a bit of money from those who would pass by. One day after the resurrection of Jesus, Peter and John passed by. Peter let the man know he didn’t have any money, but he had something far greater. He told the man to get up and walk in the name of Jesus, and he did! That man had come to the temple that day like he had been doing every day for who knows how long, expecting no more than spare change to keep him going. But when Jesus entered the scene in the form of His disciples, that man got far more than he was expecting—he was healed and no longer had any need to beg.
God is ready and willing to provide “exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think,” with one caveat: it’s for His glory, not ours.
How much truer would this be for those of us who are already followers of Christ? We are children and heirs; He has literally given us the kingdom! He longs for us to come to Him and ask Him for the things that we most want—the things that seem too big, too impossible for us to do on our own—because then He gets the glory. His word says that we can boldly come before the throne—not with a cocky attitude, but in full assurance that we are welcomed there. Maybe He wants you to ask for healing instead of sitting and begging at the gate. Does this mean He’s going to grant our every request? Of course not, because He’s still God and His ways are higher than ours. What it does mean is that you can be clear about what you want most, bringing these requests to Him without fear of reproach.
I hope that as Christmas draws nears you begin to reflect on what you ask God for. My prayer is that you begin to realize what a tremendous gift He has already given—the right to be his sons and daughters. The right to approach His throne and be honest about the desires of your heart.