If you’re at all like me, you spend a good part of your time wondering how you and those you love will make it happily through today and into tomorrow, next week, next month, next year. And that can lead to moments of prayer.
In those moments, quiet time perhaps, a question surely rolls around in your mind – as it does in mine:
What do you need from God?
Read that question again. It doesn’t say “What do you want from God?” Rather, it’s about what you need. The two can be dramatically different, of course. You can want to win the lottery; you can need a job – or a better salary – to help pay the bills. You can want a relaxing vacation to help your blood pressure; you can need better health, maybe a cure for your depression or cancer or back issues.
You can want parties and fun every weekend; you can need unconditional love from family and friends. You can ask for happiness not only for yourself but for all those you love; you can need an understanding that while you can’t always be happy, you and those you love can be safe, warm in the winter, cool in the summer, well-fed and well-clothed and engaged as upstanding, contributing members of society.
You can want a sign from God – a miracle, perhaps – to prove he exists and cares for you. You can need the gift of faith.
It’s tough not to focus on the desires and settle, instead, on the needs. That’s especially true in America, when we see so much of how the rich and famous and beautiful live. If they can have it, well, why can’t we have it? Why can’t we want it?
Fact is, we can. More on that in a moment.
Once you have settled your mind and heart on what you need from God, then you must take the next step. Have you asked him for what you need? Not only asked, but asked confidently , knowing he will fulfill that request.
In John’s First Letter, he wrote: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him.”
In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.”
John was confident. Paul was confident.
Sure, you say, easy for them. John spent three years walking alongside Jesus and eating with him and learning from him. He looked him in the eyes, shook his hand, saw him transfigured on the mountaintop and risen from the dead. Paul was knocked off his horse by God and personally called to follow him.
That’s the kind of miracle you might think you want, the kind of sign you need, in order to feel that same confidence.
Don’t feel bad about that. I have wanted and, indeed, thought I needed the same. It’s human to look at our situation and whisper, speak, cry to God requests that range from the most basic to most luxurious. I have told God to please send me a phone call from a certain friend in order to help me through a difficult time. I have asked for more money to buy a newer car, for a solution to a problem at work, for rain to help my lawn look nicer, for an end to my headaches and my depression, for improved relationships …
For quiet instead of noise, for strength when I am weak, for the ability to tell the truth when it’s easier to deceive, for the grace to be a force for good in this world rather than just another one of its problems.
Kind of selfish, isn’t it? That’s OK. God understands. He knows our hearts. He comprehends our desires and needs even before we perceive them. It’s perfectly fine to ask for both – for what we want and what we need. If we believe, if we trust, if we ask with confidence, if we know seek his will faithfully in our request, then ask and see what happens. All we have to do is, well, believe.
When I ask my parents for their help, I know they will want to help. I know they love me and, if my request is within their power, they will do whatever they can do. Frankly, I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t already know they would provide that help. I believe.
How much more does God love than this? And how much greater is his power?
I heard a priest once pose this question:
If you could ask God for one thing and one thing only, and know he would grant the wish, what would it be?
One thing and one thing only. I thought about it and crafted this prayer, which I say each morning: Please let my closest friends, my family and myself all spend eternity together in God’s presence.
That’s when I remember the promise Jesus made. “Ask and it will be given to you,” he said. “Seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
That’s when I realize that just in the fact that I asked, my prayer of desire – and need — already has been granted. And creates the peace that is my most basic need of all.