A toddler asks his mother for a Snickers bar. The mother is making dinner, so she tells her child that he may not have a snickers bar right before dinner. The toddler throws a temper tantrum, but the mother stands firm in her answer – no candy bar before dinner.
Should the mom give her child the snickers bar right before dinner?
She loves her son.
She hears her son.
She wants her son to be happy.
But she also knows a little bit more about food and healthy food and healthy eating habits than her three-year-old child.
So she says no to the snickers bar before dinner.
The job situation had been bleak for several years. And then the husband’s job was gone – again. They were so far in debt that they were in danger of losing their house. They had kids in school who needed clothes, shoes, money for school activities.
They prayed every day for the husband to find a job.
And it didn’t happen.
One month went by.
And then a second.
The prayer changed: Help us figure out how to pay the bills that have to be paid, and let the rest go.
They had to be a bit creative on meals – down to the last things in the freezer and the pantry that nobody wanted to eat before.
And still no job.
The prayer changed again: I don’t know how we’re going to do this. Please take care of us.
Matthew 7:7-8. Ask and it will be given to you; see and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
So how do you explain that verse to a kid – when they pray for something, and the thing that they are asking for is not given to them. So many times, I think we focus on the word ‘given,’ when perhaps it would be better to focus on the word ‘ask.’ Maybe the toddler was asking the wrong question – What if he had asked a different question? What if he had said, ‘mom I’m really hungry – what can I eat?’ And the mom gave him a slice of apple or a cracker that would help him ‘survive’ until dinner time. Maybe if the toddler had been open to receiving any of the snacks that his mom had for him, he wouldn’t have thrown a temper tantrum.
Was the job the thing they needed, or were there other more important blessings God had for them? They asked the question: God, will you please take care of us? And God did. In many different ways. Just not the ways that they had in mind when they first prayed. They were blessed to know what it was to totally rely on God. They had the opportunity to learn how to let go of earthly possessions, and experience contentment – and gratefulness – as they saw God working through their circumstances and other people around them.
Prayer is an incredible gift. And God tells us there is power in prayer.
Matthew 21:18-22. Now in the morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry. Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” And at once the fig tree withered.
Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, “How did the fig tree wither all at once?” And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. “And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
I am learning to pay more attention to what I am asking for, and trusting God that His answer is always the right one. And when I don’t see the answer immediately, I am learning to look for the ‘yes’ – the blessings that I didn’t even realize I needed. It was the thing I didn’t ask for that God knew I couldn’t live without.