When I read "ask and it will be given to you," I want to believe that God will give me exactly what I have asked Him to give me. When I read this phrase in English, it appears to mean exactly that.
When I look at it in the original language, however, I find something surprising. The word translated as "ask" is
The seed of prayer gave forth fruit, and the fruit looked nothing like the seed.
Could God have done what I wanted? Of course He could, but He was working with two flawed and sinful people and, if the truth be told, He didn't have as much to work with as I thought at the time. (I am speaking of myself when I say that.) The healing took years, but it came, and one of the reasons it came is persistence in prayer. What began as praying for my enemy became praying for my friend.
This business of praying in the way Jesus told us is a glorious, wonderful thing, and brings the most exciting life possible. I never know what God will do and I love that! He takes a seed of prayer and brings forth fruit, and I have no way of knowing in advance what that fruit will be. The amazing part of this fruit-bearing is that the fruit is always bigger, more complex, more beautiful, more satisfying, more delicious than the seed.
Today, then, let us ask for whatever is on our heart, but let us also ask with expectation that God's will be done, and that His will can do more than we ever asked or imagined. Every single time. Let us ask, knowing that the seed will bear fruit.