When our grandson, Jacob, was two he went to see Santa. The ‘elves’ took his picture, gave him an ornament, and he walked back toward his parents. My son lifted him up and asked him, “What did you ask for?”
Jake got a puzzled look on his face, looked at his ornament, and replied, “I don’t know. I guess an ornament.”
While we laugh at this memory, I wonder what Jake was thinking. Did he know he was supposed to give Santa a list of things he wanted? Did he ask for anything? Was he too intimidated? Did he think Santa would already know what he wanted? Did he assume Santa would just give him whatever Santa wanted him to have? Did he expect anything? He seemed OK with the ornament.
It’s interesting how many conversations I’ve had with people about prayer that sound really similar to this. We often wonder: if God knows everything, doesn’t he know what I need? Why should I ask? Shouldn’t I just be content with what he gives me? Prayer intimidates me. I don’t know what to ask for.
We are to pray because God ordained prayer as one of the means to accomplish his ends. Jesus prayed. The disciples wanted to know how to pray. And the Bible tells us to pray for everything.
Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
We can ask God for everything we need! It’s interesting that the verse says ‘with thanksgiving’. When we go to God with our list of needs and wants, but begin with thanksgiving for all that we have, all that he has done, and will do, our list of requests often seems to become unimportant. When we start with thanksgiving, we see things more clearly from God’s perspective, and we see that he is already about the business of answering our prayers even before we pray them. But that doesn’t mean we don’t pray, or that we don’t give requests. The verse says, “present your requests to God.”
Unfortunately, sometimes we pray such non-specific prayers, that we aren’t sure if, or when, God does answer. For example, do we even know what we’re asking for if our prayer is just that we want to be a better Christian? What would that look like for you? What one thing do you need from God, this week, which would make you a better Christian? Have you thought to ask for ‘that thing’ specifically? Would you ask for it today?
However, there can be times when we’re so overwhelmed with the events of life that we can’t formulate a prayer. That’s when the Holy Spirit prays for us:
Romans 8:26 “…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”
God wants us to ask, so that when he gives, we see the wonderful gift he’s given. What are you specifically asking for today so that you can tell others exactly what God has given you!