2 Chronicles 7:14-15 – If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.
James 4:2 – You do not have, because you do not ask God.
A favourite topic of conversation among local senior citizens is the comparison of the Early Bird Specials offered at various restaurants. Listening to a nearby discussion, I learned that Denny's ranks high for providing a free piece of pie with their specials.
"But I didn't get a free piece of pie!" protests Joe, coincidentally the heaviest member of the group.
"Did you ask? You have to ask," explains Helen, with the authority one would expect of a former schoolteacher.
Joe bristles at the suggestion. "Why should I have to ask? It's the special, right? I'm a senior, right? And anyone can tell I like dessert, right?"
Helen patiently waits to speak as the others laugh heartily. "That may be so, but they're not going to give away the store. You have to ask."
"It doesn't seem right. They should just give it to me." Joe sums up his argument with the irrefutable phrase, "A deal's a deal."
As the conversation drifted to other injustices, Joe and Helen's sparring stayed with me and took on a spiritual significance. How much "pie" are we missing out on by being too proud to ask? Do we believe that we are somehow entitled to God's bounty when our needs seem so obvious?
In his book, Breaking Through God's Silence: A Guide to Effective Prayer (Simon & Schuster, 1996), David Yount suggests that prayer somehow unleashes God to do what is intended for us but which could not be accomplished without our participation. In this way of thinking, God chooses to be limited by our free will, and can assist us only when we humbly present our needs to God and accept God's way of answering our prayers.
Yes, Joe, we have to ask; it's part of the deal. In the process of asking, we acknowledge our dependent relationship and center our attention upon God. Remember the story of the Pharisee and the publican? Humility is the foundation of prayer. "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up" (James 4:10) Now that's a piece of pie worth the asking!
Prayer: Loving Father, through your Holy Spirit teach me to pray out of the depths of a humble and contrite heart. Help me to understand and accept your will, especially when your answer to my prayer is "No." May I remember that I pray not simply to get results, but to love you, to learn from you, and to become the person you are calling me to become. This I ask in the name of your Son, Jesus, our model for prayer. Amen.