We have some rules in our family. They’re not unreasonable (we hope) and they’ve formed over the years as we’ve gotten to know the different personalities of our kids.
One of these rules is: “In our family we use words and ask questions.” This is our (oh-so positive and culturally correct) parental attempt to replace “NO hitting! NO kicking! NO biting! NO whining! NO demanding things! NO telling others what to do! NO storming off in anger!” It’s important to us that our girls learn that conversation is always the best choice.
One day last winter we were frequenting one of our usual haunts – the Burger King playground. Our girls love this playground (it is, believe it or not, way better than Chick-Fil-A) and they were so excited to climb, slide, and Ninja-Warrior their way around it.
But as we entered the play area that day, tragedy struck.
Like our family, indoor playgrounds also have rules – one of them being that you must wear socks while playing. This is a reasonable rule – not only does it prevent the spread of germs, but it also prevents kids (like mine) from climbing up the slides and becoming speed bumps for the kids coming down.
The tragedy was that our 6-year-old, Amelia, had somehow made it out of the house (in the middle of the winter) with no socks. As the other two ran off to play, I watched my poor little girl melt into a pile of tears.
But – as her mom, I knew something she didn’t know. This was one of those times where it really paid to be the child of two very disorganized parents. Because the chances of there being two loose socks somewhere in the mess of our minivan were hovering somewhere around 100%.
“Hey Meels – you see that guy sitting next to you? He loves you a whole lot and he will pretty much do anything he can to help you whenever you need it. And it just so happens that there are some socks out in the van that he could go get for you if you ask him.”
I’m not sure if it was the overwhelming emotion of the moment or that inherited family stubbornness (“Why are they making me ask this pointless question?”) rearing its ugly head, but she WOULD.NOT.ASK. We encouraged. We hugged. We wiped tears. We waited patiently. We prompted her with examples of what she could say. Still, she refused.
It wasn’t that we needed the information. We already knew the desire of her heart. It wasn’t that our offer of help was contingent on her phrasing the question in a certain way. It didn’t matter how she said it. We simply wanted her to acknowledge her need and then place that need in the capable and willing hands of her Daddy.
Finally, about five minutes before we had to leave, she gave in (insert giant parental “Phew!” here). Through the tears, she managed to utter some form of “Daddy, can you please help me?” So we ran out, got the socks for her, and even stayed an extra few minutes so she could have some more play time.
When it comes to prayer, most of us want to play by the “rules”. We want to say the right things and there’s always at least a little bit of fear that we’ll say the wrong things and “mess it up”. Plus, since God already knows what we need and we’re not going to change His mind, what’s the point anyway? Most of the time we’d rather wallow in our mess than just ask God for what we need.
“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, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 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 good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11)
It’s clear from these words that in God’s family, He has a similar rule to ours – and it’s not unreasonable! He wants us to ask Him for what we need. Even if He already knows what we’re going to ask for. Even if He knows what we actually need better than we do. Even if we aren’t sure we’re asking for the right things or saying it the right way. He just wants us to ask!
I’m the queen of praying with disclaimers. I overthink everything and before I even make my request, I’m already thinking of what I think God’s response will be. I just want Him to know that I really want to want His will more than anything. That I understand that I don’t always know what’s best and that He does – I want Him to know that I get it! And I really don’t want Him to think that I’m selfish.
But what if I just asked the question anyway? What’s the worst that could happen? He could say “No” because it’s not what’s best for me or for His glory. And then I would have been wrong, because I obviously didn’t know what was best.
But wait – since when does the kid have to know what’s best for them? We certainly don’t expect our kids to read our minds and only ask for the things that they think we think are best for them! We just want them to ask – to express their heart’s desire (even if it’s selfish) and place it in our hands.
What’s the worst that could happen? The worst that could happen is what happens when we don’t ask. When we stop asking because we don’t see the point. When we don’t think we should ask because we assume we can read the mind of the God of the Universe. The worst that could happen is that we end the conversation because we don’t think it’s needed. And then, instead of learning to trust Him, we end up in a place where we question His character.
You’ll never believe this, but a couple weeks later we walked in to that same Burger King playground – joking on the way there about the events of our last visit – only to find that Amelia had, yet again, forgotten to wear socks. But this time, instead of tears, we had a quick “pout” which turned to a big smile as she looked at her Daddy and said, “Can you go see if there are any socks on the van for me?” (Insert parent victory cheer!) She remembered! And she didn’t even hesitate to ask.
So before you move on to whatever is next for you today, take a moment. Acknowledge your heart’s desire and place it in the hands of your very capable and very willing and very loving Father. Just ask! Whatever it is, you can trust Him with it!