Asking for something is difficult for me. On the one hand, my pride prevents me from asking for help because I think I am (over)confident in my abilities. On the other hand, my pride is potentially at risk if the request is denied. When we began raising funds for our time and ministry in the UK, I feared we would not receive anything. Though we felt called to move, I still trusted my abilities to get us here rather than humbly ask for the support of family and friends. I thought, “I don’t need anyone to help us. We can do this all on our own.” That thought was short-lived, thank goodness, because I had to lay my pride down and simply ask for support.
Well if you’re reading this today, you can guess how it turned out. God worked through many faithfully supporting family and friends who generously provided for us. Most of them still do to this day. I think that asking is an act of humility, which is complicated because so many feelings are tied up with it. Our needs and wants are so hungry and desperate that we will ask someone for help. I think of countless times when folks would stop by one of the congregations I served and ask for help. Unfortunately, not everyone was genuine with their intentions, but most were. I have many memories of ministry with these folks, whom I’ve yet to see again. I’m grateful for the congregations who generously donated to a benevolent fund to help weary, desperate, and tired travellers who simply set down their pride and asked for help.
Prayer is an act of humility for me. In this season of Lent – a time of giving up something distracting our growth in faith and a time of taking up a habit to grow our faith – I’ve noticed that some of the things I’ve prayed for, I’ve been asking for what seems like a long time. In reality, though, it’s not that long. Why do I keep asking for the same things? Because Jesus wants to give us good gifts, just like a parent wants to give good gifts to their children. I keep asking because I’m willing to be persistent for the sake of Jesus changing my heart to pursue something else or so that I learn only to desire Him – and only Him.
I love reading Luke 11:1-13 to capture this thought. In vv. 1-4, the disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray, which Eugene Peterson says is the only thing the disciples ever asked Jesus to teach them. In vv. 1-4, we see the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus illustrates his teaching on prayer with a parable and then an encouragement to persistently pursue prayer. In vv. 5-8, Jesus tells a parable about someone who asks for three loaves from another friend at midnight. The very thought of a friend coming to our house at midnight for three loaves of bread seems ridiculous. I think Jesus knew that. However, Jesus says that if someone is persistent, their friend will eventually give the person what they need.
Finally, in vv. 9-13, Jesus tells his disciples to keep asking, seeking and knocking (the acronym A.S.K. – Ask, Seek, Knock). Why? Because he says, ‘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?’ (v. 13)
We know how to give good gifts, yet we are not inherently good. How much more, then, do you think Jesus would want to give you the desires of your heart, if you simply just…ask?
Because when we repeatedly ask Jesus for our heart’s desires, we may realise our hearts are not right. Persistently pursuing Jesus in prayer will change your heart, but it may take some time. Jesus gives me and my family good gifts, and during this season of Lent, Jesus has given both Kristina and I some opportunities we’ve been praying (asking, seeking, and knocking) for a long time.
And that’s what it sometimes takes…time. Not necessarily for Jesus to respond but for us to become aware of the good gifts He’s already given us.