So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion?
It’s not true.
God doesn’t always give.
We don’t always find.
The door doesn’t always open.
Who among us has not wept and pleaded in prayer; desperately seeking an answer from God?
Even our most noble, self-giving, and good hearted requests to God may be met with a wall of silence.
Giving up is an option:
God hasn’t heard me.
God hasn’t answered me.
God isn’t there.
If you need to give up, then stop here.
For me, giving up on God is not an option.
I have lived with God too long.
So how do we deal with it when we pray for an egg and we’re handed a scorpion?
How can we go on with God, when the things we pray for don’t happen?
When the opposite happens?
Why does a good God seem to turn away when we cry for his help?
I don’t know.
I don’t know why some prayers are answered even as we speak them, yet others bounce off the ceiling and roll sadly to our feet.
I don’t understand the haphazard ways in which we hear “yes”, “no”, “maybe”.
I don’t know why God blesses some people in some ways with some answers.
And not others.
But I do know that every time I pray, prayer changes me.
Persistent prayer teaches me more about God, and more about my inner self.
What is it I truly desire?
Who do I believe God to be?
Where will I find happiness?
Who do I think is my true self?
Over time, prayer becomes an exploration of these questions.
Perhaps we find answers.
Perhaps we don’t.
Perhaps we discover better questions.
The biggest lesson I have learned about prayer is that persistent prayer, even 5 minutes a day, leads to peace.
And peace reframes our prayers.
God becomes not a benevolent and kindly old man who wants to slip a pound coin into our sweaty palm because he’s feeling especially generous one day.
Instead, God becomes a partner with us as we seek to grow, and change the world around us.
I don’t believe in a God who wants to be begged, pestered or nagged before he gives in to us with pity.
I believe in a God who has good gifts to give his people.
I believe in a God who calls us to join him in bringing those gifts to others.
I believe in a God who weeps with us in sorrow and laughs with us in joy.
I believe in a God who knows me intimately, who knows what I desire before I ask, who has blessed me richly in all I have.
Persistent prayer has taught me about this God.
I no longer pray just to get things from God.
When I do, I know I have regressed: I’m tired, depressed, beaten.
I pray because I love God and I love life.
I pray to change myself and change the world around me.
I pray to help me cope with a particular situation.
I pray because prayer is oxygen in this smog-filled place.
So if you’re that person, asking, seeking, knocking, and meeting only silence, then for the love of God keep going.
Pray as you can:
pray with words and sobs,
pictures and paint,
nature and dreams.
We won’t find the goodness and realness of God in God’s assent to our every whim, no matter how noble, how good, how selfless.
We find God’s goodness when we persist in spending time with him, and find ourselves more fully transformed by prayer into who we truly are.
This is true gift.
This is real life.
This is the stuff of eggs and fish.