The crunch is on. The days of shopping grow more frenzied. Even though I finish most of my shopping online during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I am still tempted to add more gifts. My generosity outstrips my pocketbook. Like you, I want to find the perfect gifts for our children, grandchildren, and other loved ones. I’ve thought about it all year. I’ve completed early reconnaissance. I’ve purchased. I hope I’m on target.
But only God knows how to give truly good gifts.
No matter how carefully we plan, there will be the missed mark, the momentarily crestfallen face, the duplicated gift, the wrong size, or something not quite right. No matter our attention to detail, rare are the moments when we gift perfectly. Because of our earnest desire to give good gifts to our children, Jesus used parental gift-giving to wrap up His instruction to His disciples about prayer.
Jesus led with the Lord’s prayer, which encapsulates our most essential needs and requests, everything in one place for those times we are too distraught to add our own words or when we don’t even know how to pray. It’s a demanding prayer, an insistent prayer. It is not flowery. It requires us to have forgiven others. It gets right to the point.
He followed with a parable of persistent pounding on a neighbor’s door in the middle of the night, showing how we are to pray, illustrating that we do not have a Father who is reluctant to give. We have an Abba, a Daddy, who wants us to come urgently, expectantly, and in need. And Jesus wrapped it up with these words:
“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:9-13 NIV)
In the original language, Jesus commands His disciples (and us) to ask, seek, and knock persistently, habitually, and repeatedly. This is how Jesus expects us to address the Father, who loves us and desires to give us good gifts. When we do so, we will be heard. We will receive, find, and be presented with an open door.
Does this mean that God will give us everything on our “wish list” or that every opportunity is a “go”? No, for our requests are often not in our best interests in light of past, present, and future events that God is working together for our good. He has a broader view than we.
God doesn’t always give us exactly as we ask. We don’t know the future circumstances. Whereas, God does. Just as we wouldn’t give a child a hand grenade, even if she asked for one, so God won’t give us what is not in our best interests, even if we ask. He knows what is best for us far better than we do.
The point is that we come persistently and expectantly with open beggar’s hands, seeking the Father. In that seeking and coming, we demonstrate our dependence on Him, our trust in Him, and our understanding of His character. When we continually ask, seek, and knock, we demonstrate our belief that He is a good and gracious Father, one who is not arbitrary nor capricious, a Father we know will give us what is truly good.
Prayer is about growth in our trust in Him. Do we trust Him, really, no matter what He gives or doesn’t give?
The Father’s answer is always the gift of Himself. At this time of year we remember the gift of His Son, Emmanuel, God in the flesh. And with His Son for all who believe, He also gifts His Holy Spirit to us, the very best of gifts available because of His Son. In these gifts of Himself, we have everything we need and His presence with us always.
These are our real needs. These are the gifts we truly require.