Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Philippians 4: 6
I often talk with people hesitant to ask God for something, reluctant to pray for themselves. While they pray for others, they think it selfish and less than spiritual to ask for themselves. This reluctance is not something we find in the Bible.
Jesus readily encourages us to ask: “Ask, and it will given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you” (Matthew 7: 7). The Hebrew and Greek words most often translated as “prayer” in the Bible mean “to petition” or “to ask”. The nineteenth century “Prince of Preachers”, Charles Spurgeon, had it right: “Whether we like it or not, asking is the rule of the Kingdom.” (Spurgeon on Prayer, ed. Charles Chadwick) Jesus’ little brother, James, who must have heard Jesus pray countless times, says: “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4: 2b). There are some things we will never have from God if we do not ask. Augustine taught, “God does not ask us to tell him our needs that he may learn about them, but in order that we may be capable of receiving what he is preparing to give.” (Quoted by Mark Gibbard, Prayer and Contemplation)
Being a parent has taught me quite a lot about prayer. As a father I know how eager I am for my children to come to me and ask. If they need help, I want them to tell me! If they need something, I want to know! They don’t have to have just the right words, or know how to say it. So too our Lord Jesus points to our heavenly Father’s eagerness to hear and answer:
Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7: 9-11).
I often think of the importance of asking from God for ourselves when I am flying. You have probably heard the flight attendant give the pre-flight safety instructions: “In case there is loss in cabin pressure, yellow masks will deploy from the ceiling…Please make sure to secure your own masks before assisting others.” This applies to prayer. If we do not pray about our own spiritual, physical and emotional health, we’re not likely to be able to care for others. It’s as the old African-American spiritual goes: “Not by brother nor my sister, but it’s me, O Lord, standin’ in the need of prayer.”
So don’t be hesitant, don’t be timid about asking. Rather, “by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
- Identify what you might be worried or anxious about today and record it in your journal. Take that anxiety and translate it into prayer, making your requests to God.
- Today’s Scripture asks that we present our requests to God “with thanksgiving”. Take a moment to thank God for how He will answer your prayer.
“It is no use to ask God with factitious earnestness for A when our whole mind is in reality filled with the desire for B. We must lay before him what is in us, not what ought to be in us.”
C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer