by Allan Knapp
“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Kids, how does your mom or dad answer when you ask for dessert? Of course, you have to ask nicely, don’t whine, say ‘please’ and all that. But when your request is made in a respectable manner, what is the answer you get? It’s not always the same, is it? Sometimes ‘Yes’, sometimes ‘No’, sometimes ‘Maybe’, sometimes ‘Wait until everyone is done with dinner.’ Best of all, sometimes when you ask for one Oreo, you get cake and ice cream. And the adults get crème brûlée.
The reason for the answer can vary. Maybe you and your siblings already had too many sweets. Maybe the cookies are all gone. Maybe there was a promise made earlier in the day, like ‘thanks for cleaning up your room, I think we should have ice cream tonight,’ or, ‘that was very naughty, no dessert for you tonight.’ Maybe it’s Halloween and desserts galore are in your near future.
Mom and Dad desire good things for you but like all humans, they don’t know everything; only God does. And we see in the passages above that God not only desires to give good gifts to His people, but EVERYTHING works together for good for those who love Him. One of the many gifts God gives is His Holy Spirit. And the Spirit’s intercessory too-deep-for-words groanings are always according to the will of God. Even though our prayers, like our requests for dessert, might not be done in a respectable manner, the Holy Spirit always provides a super-clean filter when bringing them before God.
So, what answers can you expect when you pray? ‘Yes.’ ‘No.’ ‘Maybe.’ ‘Wait.’ Those are all possibilities. We might not know or understand the answer for a while; waiting can be hard. Similarly, we might not know the reason for the answer we receive. Some prayers, like asking for wisdom (James 1:5) or asking for Jesus to return soon God readily answers with a ‘Yes’ because he promised He would. He also promises in 1 John 1:9 that he would say ‘Yes’ if we confess and request forgiveness. And confessing sin is also a good idea because that unrepentant sin can be hindering the content and the reception of our prayers; like naughty behavior might prevent dessert tonight.
Sometimes the answer to your prayers is much better than what you were asking for. Maybe your congregation had prayed for some building with more worship, classroom, and parking space. You were given a wonderful church building with three times the worship, classroom and parking space at a price that allowed tremendous renovations. Be looking for such answers and give thanks like Paul does in Ephesians 3:20 with the phrase, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think…”