By Paul Koch –
To ask something of someone else ought to be the most natural and easy thing we do. If you’ve ever spent any time around little children, their world seems to be defined by questions. They ask for everything. They ask for the meaning of things that are new to them or the reason why things happen the way they do. They ask for stuff they want, from what shows they watch, to their next meal. or especially what is for dessert. Asking is second nature, but it seems that as we grow older one of the things we tend to lose is the ability or even the desire to ask questions. We become self-conscious about making requests of others. Perhaps we don’t want to impose ourselves on them or we don’t feel we have the right to ask or probably. We’ve grown accustomed to being rejected or disappointed, so we just stop asking.
Think of the last time you asked for a raise, for more time off, or for a promotion of any sort. How did you feel going into that conversation? How did it go? Perhaps you’ve never asked for such a thing. I’m sure many of us have never done such a thing. Approaching a superior in the workplace with a request like that is going to be intimidating. It means you can’t just remain hidden; it puts you front and center. While you will no doubt want to draw attention to your good qualities, your best side, you will most certainly draw attention to your shortcomings as well. It makes it easier, of course, if you ask for favors from a friend. A friend is much less intimidating. A true friend already knows you and is probably glad that you’ve come to them in a time of need.
Asking a father is different as well. While it may not be as intimidating as asking a boss, it usually isn’t as straightforward as asking a friend either. There is some risk in making a request from a father, even a really good father, perhaps even especially the good fathers. For you see, there is a recognition that there is an inequality, that he can provide what you are lacking, something beyond your means or ability. And since you’ve grown out of our childhood asking, you feel that making the request is somehow a return to that state. Now, most good fathers are willing to provide what is asked. Though they desire that their children move toward independence, they always want them to know that if they were in trouble or real need that they could come back to them. Don’t assume the answer. Just ask.
In Luke 11, we find the disciples asking our Lord an important question. The request doesn’t come out of nowhere; they see Jesus praying. He is bringing his requests, his petitions to God. So, they ask him to teach them how to pray. They want Jesus to help them ask God for their needs. Now, it is easy for us to miss the gravity of this request. To bring a request, a prayer to the Almighty Creator of the heavens and the earth is not something that mankind does naturally. While there was certainly a day when God walked in the garden and spoke with Adam and Eve, sin has twisted and perverted that relationship. Men now hide their face from his glory. They are terrified of his presence. Think about it. The whole system of temple worship was designed around how one approaches near to the glory of God. There was a system of ceremonial acts that made you ritually clean to come near, to bring your petitions to ask anything of God. But with Jesus they see something different. They see a conversation with God, a means to call out to him, to thank and praise him, to ask him for what you need. So they say, “Lord teach us to pray.”
And teach he does. He says, “When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come…” He gives to his disciples the prayer we know as the Lord’s Prayer. And it begins, not by calling out to the Almighty, not by humbling yourself before his eternal majesty. No, it begins by calling him “Father.” He directs you to call God your Father. That is a defining thing, a particular move that sets your identity in relation to your God. You are his creature to be sure. You are limited in knowledge and strength and glory compared to him. You are sinners that stand outside of his commands and decrees. But Jesus says that you are to call him Father, which means that you are his dear children. As children of God, you are invited then to make your request. You are called to simply ask, ask for all that you need. Are you longing for wisdom or peace or guidance in your life? Are you struggling to trust in his Word or act upon your convictions? Are you lost or afraid or lonely? Then ask him. Not as a servant pleads with a tyrant or an employee to a boss. Ask him like children asking their good and loving father.
And Jesus not only invites his disciples to petition their heavenly Father, he even guides them to be bold in their requests. Don’t just ask for some temporal guidance and comfort. No, go ahead and ask for the whole kingdom. Ask for everything. This is what the Father desires to give you. Ask him that you are not allowed to stumble into temptation. Ask him to forgive you all your sins. Ask him to free you from worry about your daily bread. Ask him for his kingdom to rule in your life, his name to mark you, his blessing to pour upon you. Go ahead and ask him.
Now that sounds all good, but we aren’t accustomed to asking such things. We would be happy by just asking for some smaller things. Some simple signs of guidance, perhaps some healing for a friend or some comfort for a loved one. That is enough. That is all we want to worry God about. After all, we don’t want to draw too much attention to ourselves. We don’t want him to deny our prayers because of our sins. Keep the petitions small and fly under the radar. That seems to make most sense. I mean, who are you to ask anything of God? I suppose sometimes you can be bold because you barter a deal. You know the type. God, if you will only provide me a way out of this, I promise that I will start reading the Bible a little more or go to church more often. Something along those lines. You begin to think that you need to pad your stats a bit before you can come to your God and ask anything of him. Some sacrifice you need to make to be worthy of his answer.
And let’s be honest, you are not wrong in this assessment. I mean, if we were to examine your life, if we were to lay it all out, I doubt we would have to go very far before we had a nice list going of reasons why God should not hear your prayer. By all outward signs, you have no cause to be bold.
And when we focus on such things, we begin to forget who we are. We begin to forget what Christ has done, what identity he has given you. Are we not just aimless sinners pleading with God in a desperate hour of need? No, you are his children. You are brothers and sisters of Christ alone. You are washed in the blood of the Lamb and promised eternal life. Your Father knows you and wants you to ask him. Jesus goes on to say,
Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 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 the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13).
The promise of your Lord has never been dependent upon your merit. He is ready to give you his kingdom, give you his holy name, give you the Holy Spirit that gives life and forgiveness. His gifts are abundant, freely poured out to his children. So, go ahead and ask. For this is your Father. He is a good Father, a kind Father, a merciful Father. And he loves to hear from his children.