Why Can't I Have That?

It has become a predictable pattern in our house. My two year old comes into the kitchen and asks for a snack. “Sure,” I say. “How about some Goldfish?” He responds with a nod of his head and an enthusiastic run to his chair, ready to receive what I give him.

A few minutes later, my six year old comes into the room. “Aww, M-o-m-m-y, why can’t I have Goldfish?” I respond with, what I think to be an obvious answer, “Well, did you ask for Goldfish?” “No.” “Why don’t you try asking?” “Mommy, can I please have some Goldfish, too?” “Sure.”

I’m sure this scene is replicated in kitchens all over the country. Why don’t kids just ask for what they want? And, why do they start to whine under the assumption that their parents won’t give it to them?

I am exasperated. But, I am also convicted. Because I see the same scene playing out in my prayer life.

I assume that God won’t give me what I really want. So I don’t ask. And then I whine that I don’t have it.

I think of the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus says,

Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.

- Matthew 7:7-10 (NLT)

Now, let me be clear. I do not believe that God gives us everything we ask for in prayer. He loves us, just as I love my kids. As a parent, doing what is best for my kids sometimes means saying no. Or not yet. Yes is not the only answer given in love.

But, sometimes, we assume the answer is no, and never make the request. We don’t give God the opportunity to say yes.

My prayers need a boldness boost.

There is another barrier besides the assumed no that has kept me from boldness: my attempt at humility. I realize that God is God, and I am not. And so I surround my desires with lots of “if it’s Your will…” statements and “have Your way” requests.

That is not necessarily bad attitude.

But I wonder sometimes if I have fooled myself. If what I have let myself believe is humility is actually a lack of trust.

When I pray without boldness, I am safe. If all I pray is for God’s will to be done, then whatever happens is an answer to that prayer. I do not risk the wrestling that happens when prayers are not answered the way I wish them to be.

When I pray with boldness, I put it all out there. I risk hearing no.  But I trust. I trust that my desires, my true from-the-gut hopes, are better off in the hands of the God who loves me than in my own feeble grip.

And isn’t the risk of hearing no worth it if it also means I risk hearing yes?

I wonder if in my prayers, I am like my son, who assumes too quickly that he can’t have a snack because he never asked me if he could.

I’m going to start praying a little differently.

Do you have trouble praying with boldness? What holds you back?

walking on the ledge

It is time to leave. I gather my sons to exit the building and walk back to the car. I am in a hurry to get to the next building, to the next item on my to-do list, to the next thing on my schedule. But my son is not rushed; he wants to make the most of the journey. So he does not go directly toward the car. Instead, he walks toward the garden bed. He is not going there to admire the flowers, for sadly, it is a time of year when they are no longer in bloom. No, he is walking toward the wonder of… the ledge. The ledge- I see nothing spectacular in it. I see it as a structure built next to the garden to keep in the dirt. My son sees it as an opportunity for adventure- a chance to walk on a different path than the boring old sidewalk. It is a path that requires more from him- more balance, more dodging of obstacles, more risk of injury if he falls. But he knows, instinctually, that something which requires more from him will also give him more in return. He knows the ledge will give him a feeling of adventure, a sense of accomplishment, and a fresh perspective.

When I ask my son if he would walk on the ledge if I wasn’t there, he responds with nervous laughter. He may not need me to hold his hand anymore, but he does want to know that I am nearby. My presence gives him the security to take a risk.

God’s presence is meant to give me that same security.

Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd (John 10). He leads us to green pastures. But in order to get there, we have to leave the security of the pen. Following Jesus means taking the road less traveled. There may be parts of the journey that are dangerous. There may be parts that are rocky or difficult. But we are with the Shepherd. We need not fear.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. – Psalm 23:4

Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10). Our lives have purpose and meaning beyond our imagination. Our Father gives us gifts and asks us to use them. Jesus gives us transformation stories and asks us to share them. The Holy Spirit gives us guidance to make a change and asks us to trust Him. These are risky choices. But steps of faith are adventures worth taking.

I once heard Erwin McManus say, "Christ did not come simply to free us from death, but to free us from the fear of death... so that we can live a life worth living."

Go ahead. Walk on the ledge.

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