I must say that I struggle with these words of Jesus:
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (St. Matthew 7:7-9).
Bruce Wilkinson in his book, The Prayer of Jabez, tells a story about taking his five-year-old son David to a public playground that was equipped with the finest of swings, monkey bars, and seesaws. However, most engaging to David were the three sliding boards—one small, one medium, one enormous.
David shot for the small one first. He climbed right up the steps, slid down the slide, waved on his way around, and continued to go again and again. You know how it is with small sliding boards, though; you get bored. So, he moved quickly to the medium-sized slide. He hesitated a little at the bottom, looked to the top, and with one more wave to his parents, went right up the steps. With a look of fear and excitement, he went down that slide with a big smile on his face that said, “I’ve mastered it!” Eventually he got tired of the medium-sized slide and went over to the enormous one. Confident now, he didn’t tarry long at the bottom. He started right up the steps. Halfway up he literally froze. Fear. Making matters worse, a teenager was pecking at his heels, saying, “Okay, kid. Either get out of the way or go on up.” David simply yelled to his father, “Daddy, will you come over and slide with me? I can’t do it without your help.” Bruce says, “I was standing there all the time just waiting for him to ask. And with one simple request, I ran to him, came up the slide behind him, picked him up, carried him to the top, sat down at the top of the slide, pulled him between my legs, put my big arms around him, and with one sign of joy between the two of us, we went down that enormous sliding board together.”
Wilkinson says, “Many of us seldom pray because we have never been on the biggest sliding board.”
What I think Wilkinson is saying is that many people settle for fears and doubts instead of exercising confidence and faith. We only try what is possible. We only attempt what is manageable. But when we find ourselves in a difficult place in life and cry out in prayer for God’s help, God comes to us and we go down the big slide together!
All of that sounds really good, but I have found, more often than not, an elegy and requiem attributed to an unknown Confederate soldier more in keeping with my prayerful petitions:
I asked God for strength that I might achieve.
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked God for health that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy.
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for but everything I had hoped for…
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all men most richly blessed.
How should we feel when our prayerful appeals go unanswered? Why are some of our supplications ignored by God, or at least seem to be? Is Jesus really implying in the above passage from St. Matthew’s Gospel that we get what we ask for in our spiritual invocations if we seek long enough and knock hard enough? Sometimes we “ask” but it is not given. We “seek” but it is not found. We “knock” but the door does not open.
All this and more I will take in to consideration in my sermon this coming Sunday, November 18, at the 8:30 and 11:00 a.m. Traditions worship services as we take more seriously the words of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount. The quandary of prayer is one of the main reasons Why Jesus Makes Me Nervous!
Bring a friend with you to church this Sunday. I look forward to seeing your smiling face and joining with you in worship. Until then…
Sola Deo Gloria!
P.S. We have solidified our Christmas Eve Service schedule and I wanted to be sure to share those details with you, as December 24 is just a little over a month away. We’ll have four candlelight-communion services again this year: Traditions at 4:00, 8:00 and 11:00 p.m.; and The Bridge at 6:00 p.m. The children’s choir will sing at 4:00; the chancel choir will perform at 8:00; and a string quartet will offer special music at the 11:00 service. The Bridge Worship Team will provide bluegrass-style music which they have done for a few years and I am sure it will be terrific! We will have invitation cards available this Sunday and throughout December for you to share with your friends and neighbors.