Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Father, can you hear me? (By Dan Dooley)
Let's talk a little about being specific in our requests to God and expecting specific answers. At first that idea might seem a little (or more than a little) presumptuous and perhaps even demanding or arrogant. After all, here we are asking the King of the Universe and asking for something very specific. We want this and we want nothing else. That rather reminds me of a new job I started quite a few years ago. They asked me what kind of company car I wanted. I want a Ford Taurus. A red one. Well I got the Taurus, but it was not red. It was a bland beige color. So much for my specific request.
Now I could approach God with a request but not wanting to offend Him or seem pushy and demanding, I could say, "Father I want......... well whatever You want for me." He might answer; "what do you want son?" (He calls me 'son') "Lord I want..... but, I don't want to be demanding, so I just want..... well, Father, just Your Will. You know what I have need of."
You know, there are times when that's the best thing we can ask of Him. Sometimes it's good to just approach Him with the request, "just whatever You have for me today. I know it will be great." Jesus taught us to be specific and He taught us emphatically to be specific in our requests. With His emphasis on being specific, it's only right to expect that to mean, if I ask God for something specific, that's what I am expecting to receive. Nothing else. Nothing less. Nothing different. I know it is sometimes said from a well meaning heart, but personally, I am having more and more difficulty being receptive to the common response "well you know God sometimes answers in ways different from what we pray for." Or "God may not always give us just what we pray for or in the way we pray for them."
Of course I know the thought behind the sayings but as I wrote in a different post, I think we can use that as sort of a "Plan B." If we pray for something and we do not receive it, then "God does not always answer in the way we want." Before anyone charges me with teaching bad theology, hear me out. Let's look at some Scripture.
"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 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!" (Matt 7:9-12)
Well God may give us "good gifts". Great. What are "good gifts"? If we read the WHOLE passage, what did the son ask for? Bread. What's a good gift? An apple? A carrot stick? A cracker? There is nothing wrong with any of those but they are not what the son asked for. Jesus is in no way implying that a father who's son has asked for bread will receive anything other than bread.
As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. 30 Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!"
31 The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!"
32 Jesus stopped and called them. "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked.
33 "Lord," they answered, "we want our sight."
34 Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him. (Matt 20:29-34)
Jesus asked the blind men, "what do you want?" They answered "we want to receive our sight." They had a specific need and a specific request. By our modern reasoning, we might say, "Jesus knows what is best for them and maybe receiving their sight is not what He has chosen for them for maybe He has something better which will come from their blindness." Would we say that? Sometimes we hear it said.
Once when I was unemployed I asked God for a job. Actually that has happened more than once but that's another testimony. During that time period I prayed for a Job in general, meaning I wanted employment, but specifically I wanted a job in my career field. Actually I don't recall using the specific words in my prayers that I wanted a job in my career field but that was my heart's desire.
Receiving a job could have consisted of a number of different types of jobs, including flipping burgers and offering frys, or working on a road crew sweeping roads or something of the sort. Well, those would have been jobs and if God sometimes answers our prayers in ways which are different from what we have prayed for, those would certainly be different for me. Of course, I did not want anything like that for a job. I wanted a job in my career field. Doing something I had been trained for, had a natural talent for and a lot of experience at and felt the most home in.
Now as to the part of God not always answering in quite the way we expect or pray for, yes. That happens. During that period of job seeking, I came across four (you've heard this story from me already. I know. I'm sorry to repeat myself but I am not sorry to repeat the lesson.) For each of those particular job leads, as the interviewing process went on and the positions (one at a time, not all at the same time) looked more and more like they were perfect fits for me, I prayed specifically for each one that I would get the job. I was very specific in my petitions to God even naming the companies as I worked to exercise my faith and claim His promises that the jobs would be mine. I did not get any of those jobs.
So you are correct, God sometimes answers in ways which are different from what we pray for. But, there is a bigger point. That is, God does answer our specific prayers. What was my specific prayer? That I would get a job. And more importantly that the job (though as I said, I don't recall if I actually included in the conscious prayer that it be in my career field) that it was indeed in my career field. The job I did receive was in my career field. And, it was a great company to work for. I prayed for a job. That was my requesting my Heavenly Father for bread, and He did not give me a stone. Nor a snake. He gave me the bread I had asked for.
If I am praying for the healing of someone else, I can pray, "Lord heal them but have Your Way". Or "Lord heal them" and think, well maybe He has other plans for the situation. Perhaps He will use their not receiving a physical healing for His Glory. Or, maybe this is His Will that they receive "the ultimate healing", you know what that means.
That's not what I prayed for. I prayed for their healing. Is it God's Will to heal them? What was God's Will when the two blind men approached Jesus and asked Him to restore their sight? He healed them and restored their sight.
God will always have His will and His way in all situations regarding us and our lives. We too easily think that when we ask for healing, for ourselves or someone else that it's probably not God's will to heal them. Or ourselves. Why do we think that way? Honestly, I believe it is an out for our unbelief. We're just not sure God will heal and thus we want some answer to fall back on if the healing does not occur. And, with that sort of disbelief, we probably will not be disappointed.
Let me summarize it this way. If I am praying for something for myself, for a loved one or anyone, I want to have one and only one expectation. If you ask me to pray for healing I will expect only one answer from God. I really want to make sure that I do not fall into the all too common practice of saying or even thinking "of course you know sometimes God answers in ways which are different from what we pray." If that is my expectation before I begin praying, why should I even bother? What happens will happen so why bother praying? "If a man's son asks for bread will his father give him a stone?"