Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Teach us to pray, part 56: The difference between good and best

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" (Luke 11:13 NASB)

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:11 NASB)

Both of the verses above refer to the discussion about the ability of earthly fathers to give good gifts to their children.  If earthly fathers, with the propensity to sin and evil common to all mankind, can give good gifts when their children ask, how much more will our Heavenly Father be generous with what is good when we, His children, ask? 

The first point of significance in these verses is the difference between an earthly father and our Heavenly Father. As humans, our tendency is toward sin and rebellion against God. Even when we love (our spouse, children, family, friends) it is an imperfect love, colored by events in our past and circumstances of the present. We don't know what the future will bring nor how our decision of today will affect our children in the future. Even with our imperfections, God has placed in each of us an ability to love our children in a way that gives us an idea of His love toward us. 

Just as a father is overwhelmed by love for his newborn, takes delight in his toddler, enjoys spending time with his child and joyfully gives that child good gifts, our Heavenly Father delights in us, enjoys time with us, and joyfully gives good gifts to His children. 

The difference between the gifts of our earthly father and Heavenly Father is that God is omniscient. He knows everything, including the long-term consequences of that for which we ask. He knows the difference between what is good and what is best for us. 

We (myself included) have a tendency to want whatever it is that we want with a certainty that what we want is also what is best. God must shake His head at some of the things I have requested. What a blessing that He gave me what I needed instead of what I thought I wanted! 

As I look through my prayer list and ponder those things for which I have asked but have not received, it is important that I understand that God's decision about my request is not just final, it is best. There are some things for which I can pray with certainty, knowing that it is God's will. The salvation of a lost person or a prodigal is always God's will. Prayers for those in authority, for wisdom in making decisions, for provision and protection, for the peace of Jerusalem, for the persecuted church are all things for which we have been instructed to pray. I can pray with perseverance for those things I know are within the will of God. 

For those requests about which I am less certain, I still ask. Along the way, though, I've learned to relinquish my will to His. "I want what You want, God, more than what I want, for I know Your plan is best." That's usually our point of struggle, isn't it? It is the certainty that what God wants for us is absolutely, unequivocally best that brings tremendous peace as I pray. Until I believe that without reservation, how can I trust His provision? 

In this business of prayer, there is one thing I must understand. God knows best, and I do not. When I can embrace His ultimate wisdom, it is much easier to embrace His will. As we pray today, let us embrace the truth that God knows best. Suffering is never wasted. God can bring good from even the most horrible circumstances. 

His ways may be inscrutable to us, but they are always best. Let us, then, ask for what we will, but let us also submit our will to His. 

Don't just give us what we want, Lord. Give us what is best.