My teenaged son, Matt, always has a great time when he visits my parents. And why shouldn't he? Matt gets out of bed whenever he wants, eats whatever he wants, and watches whatever he wants on TV. In fact, Matt made a grand discovery at Grandma's house during his last visit. My mother keeps a bucket of chocolate-chip cookie dough in her refrigerator that Matt enjoyed eating by the spoonful! When he returned from that visit, he began asking me to buy cookie dough from Sam's Club, just like my mom.
I know having cookie dough easily available isn't good for either of us, so I said "no" over and over . . . until last week. Matt's repeated requests finally wore me down.
That's one of the big differences between God's parenting and mine. God doesn't give me everything I repeatedly ask for when he knows it's not best for me. But a shallow reading of Luke 11:9-10 could lead me to think otherwise. There Jesus says, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."
Is the way to get what I want from God through wearing him down, or getting as many people as possible to ask God for it? What kinds of prayer really move the heart and hand of God?
Secret-formula prayer vs. seeking prayer
As his parent, I don't want Matt to try to get what he wants by constantly begging me for it or getting everyone he knows to gang up on me. I want to hear his heart on the matter, and I want him to hear mine. I want us to have a conversation. Isn't that how it is with our heavenly Father? Prayer is about a conversation with our loving God—not about wearing him down to get what we want.
There's so much to want—healed bodies, restored relationships, changed circumstances. But asking, seeking, and knocking aren't secret formulas for getting what we want from God; they're ways to get more of God. As I listen to God speak to me through his Word, he gives me more of himself in fuller, newer ways. Then, if healing doesn't come, if the relationship remains broken, or if the pressures increase, I have the opportunity to discover for myself he is enough. His presence is enough. His purpose is enough.
If you truly want to move God's heart, put aside secret-formula prayer and instead begin to practice prayer that seeks the Giver more than the gifts.