“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!” –Matthew 7:11
Shortly after my husband and I were married, a speaker in our Sunday school class testified about something he’d come to believe about prayer. He’d learned this lesson while on a fishing trip. Before he’d left, he had prayed and asked God to help him catch something big. God answered his prayer. After quite the wrestling match to haul it in from the lake, he landed an old, rotting log. Boy, was he ever proud!
Not really. He was disappointed. What lesson did he learn? He said he learned that God wants us to pray very specifically. If we don’t, He might give us something we don’t want in order to teach us a lesson. He said God wants us to think about our prayers in order to get them right.
For a long time, I think I believed that, though something inside me said it wasn’t quite true. My prayers sometimes gave my superstitions away, particularly before a trip. If I was going on a journey, I’d not only pray for a safe trip. I’d pray for a safe and uneventful trip, fearing that if I didn’t include those extra words, my safe trip might be full of cancellations, delays, and much rerouting. Yet I noticed, over time, that sometimes when I had prayed for a safe and uneventful trip, my journey was full of mishaps anyway. Other times, all would go well, though I’d forgotten to pray so specifically.
The truth is: our God’s not a genie. And prayers are not carefully worded formulas for getting what we want from Him.
According to legend, the mythical genie not only grants wishes, but takes great delight in looking for the loophole. His goal is to make the wisher regret having wished—there his victim stands with his big catch, the log, and he can’t complain because the genie granted his wish. In order to beat the genie, you have to word your wish perfectly.
God isn’t like that. (And prayers aren’t wishes.)
God is the perfect father. (If you had a loving father who cared for you, God is even better than that. If you didn’t, God is all you had longed for your father to be—and more!) He loves His children and delights in blessing them with good things. He knows what we need before we ask Him and is eager to provide. He hears our prayers, then gives what’s best for us. (Just as a loving parent hears the child’s request, then does what is best, yes or no.) If God’s answer to our prayer turns out to be a log instead of a fish, it’s not a colossal joke. If our cross-country flight takes ten hours longer than we’d planned, it’s not because we forgot to pray for no problems that day. God with perfect wisdom has simply chosen to say, “No.”
Sometimes life’s frustrating, but it’s not because our God is playing jokes at our expense. Believe that—no matter what! God loves us. He’s watching over us. He gives His children good gifts.
“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” –Philippians 4:19.
Thank You, Father, for hearing our prayers and granting what’s best—always.