There are sweet and confusing promises in the Word of God. One such example is this:
“For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are 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! (Matthew 7:7-11 ESV)
I tell you what: this is a hard text. It asks me two challenging questions: do I believe God wants to give me good? Do I believe what God gives is good?
Some of us doubt that God actually wants to give us good. We have a picture of Him in our head as a far away ruler who has no time for the longings of our hearts. Others us of doubt that what He gives is good. We see Him give others the thing we have wanted and we feel betrayed and denied.
Want to know which one you are? Look to your prayers.
Do you struggle to persist in prayer?
Want to know if you believe in the deepest part of your heart that your God wants to give you good things? Look to your prayers: do you ask God for what you want?
Have you ever watched a child interact with a dad whom they trust wants to give them good things? Ever watched someone interact with a leader or pastor they trust is for them? There is no hiding. There is lots of open and direct communication. There is an asking of help without fear or wrapping of words in blankets of appeal.
According to this passage in Matthew, believing that God wants to give you good is the fuel for a persisting prayer life.
Do you persist in prayer with a bitter heart?
Trusting God will result in persisting in prayer. But, persisting in prayer doesn’t mean you trust God. There are those of us who persist in prayer – not because we trust God – but because we don’t.
I think this might be me. I can track the patterns of my prayers and see how I have persisted: asking my father over and over for what I want, (and this honors Him). But I can also see how my prayers are infected with frustration, growing bitter and demanding; motivated by a sense that God hasn’t done what is right, motivated by a desire to try to control Him.
It’s not that I don’t trust God wants to give good, it’s that I don’t trust that what He gives is good. So, I look at this promise and I look at my seeming unheard requests and I hear my heart declare: lie! It’s not true! God has not honored His Word.
But the truth is, I have misunderstood this text, twisted this verse, and let Satan use my distorted version to convince me that God isn’t telling the truth. And the irony is, this promise is actually better than I would have it be. I have minimized what is offered to me in Christ.
Better than a promise that God will give me what I want, I have received a promise that God will give you what is good.
He will use all His great and glorious knowledge of my own heart and steward that information perfectly with His absolute wisdom and hear my requests and the longings of my heart and find a way to satisfy them with nothing less than the best.
EG: Remember that time when I was 21 and I prayed to get to be with that one guy? God heard my heart. He dug deeper than the request for a boy and listened to my longing for a love that wouldn’t fail and my desperate appetite to be known. And, in His great grace, He gave me Himself instead of that boy. Not because He doesn’t want to give me good and not because He doesn’t hear my prayers – but because He does.
Thank God for the prayers that haven’t been answered the way you might have wanted or in the timing that you sought. Because those moments are evidence that God is keeping this promise. He will only give you good things. Even when it hurts, and even when it causes you to hurt Him – He is a good and steadfast father. He does not bend to a toddlers tantrum or a teenagers anger, but instead, in love – He draws you close and whispers to you in the pain of seemingly unanswered prayers – I promised you I would give you what is good and I love you too much to break that promise.
When you doubt those words, look to the Cross. He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?