“Want loud! Want Jesus Better loud!” – That’s how my favorite 3-year-old asks me to turn up the volume to his favorite song in the car.
“Ask nicely, buddy!” – That’s what I tell him.
“Please-may-I-have-Jesus-Better-loud -please.” – That’s his response.
The cuteness doesn’t really translate when you read that because you can’t hear the ridiculousness of his voice, but trust – it’s totes adorbs. And no one in their right mind would say no.
But – even though this kid has me wrapped around his finger – every now and then he asks me for something and I refuse him. Because, let’s be honest, there has to be a limit to how many suckers he can eat without going into a coma, and I’m pretty sure there is a healthy ceiling to the volume of Jesus is Better.
So I say no. He gets so confused. He asks again, (usually throwing in a third ‘please’). He asked nicely, so…it follows that my answer is yes, right?
We train our kids to ask nicely because there is a right way of asking, but sometimes they get confused and think that asking nicely is like a magic formula – guaranteeing them the object of their desire.
God teaches that how we ask matters. Most of us hear that, and like my bud, we ask ‘nicely’. When God doesn’t seem to answer our prayers, we shift our tone, throw in an extra ‘in Jesus’ name’, muster up a little more faith, and ask again, confident what we want will now be ours. But we forget two things: (1) who we’re asking, and (2) that we’re asking.
(1) We’re asking God.
When we pray we’re not dealing with Siri or a vending machine. We’re dealing with the only God.
““Please give me the ideal spouse, today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”…What an easy and domesticated religion. But this is not true religion. This magic, not worship; it is another power trip, not hearty submission to the lordship of Christ. It is superstition, not a personal relation with the Father God who is wise, good, patient.” – D.A. Carson
Ask ANYTHING because your prayers matter and your father longs to help you process your life and He is good enough to bring any request – no matter how small it seems, no matter how precious it feels.
Ask EMOTIONALLY because you talk to a Person, not a computer automated system – and a Person who loves you more than you know.
Ask HUMBLY because you address the sovereign lord of all and prayer is about reminding yourself of that as much as anything.
(2) We’re asking God.
The transition from ‘Music louder!’ to: ‘May I have the music louder, please?’ is not about manners. It’s about transforming a demand into a question. See, a question implies that my pal needs help making a decision. It is a demonstration that there might be better options than his request and it means he trusts me to run his request through the grid of my advanced wisdom and make a good decision about what is best.
God wants us to bring our desires to Him as questions. Questions mean we don’t KNOW the answer. We ask God – we don’t demand from Him – because we want Him to make the decision for us. We want Him to take our desire and run it through the filter of His perfect wisdom and sovereign rule and make the best decision for us.
“May I” is my buddy’s way of saying that He believes it’s possible that there are better options than his way, and he trust me to discern if his way is best.
We ask God – we don’t demand from Him – because, while we have a preference, we are aware there might be a better way than our way. We ask because we honestly don’t know what’s best and what’s right, so we bring our requests to the One who does, and we ask Him to make a decision for us. And we trust His response because we know it comes with all knowledge about the future, all wisdom about our hearts and all love for us.