pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
I don't know about you, but there are times when I wonder if prayer works. It feels like I ask God for what I need, and nothing happens. I wonder if He's even listening. This verse from the Bible reminds us to keep asking, and to be thankful that He is listening, He loves us, and wants what's best for us.
Think about young children. When they want something, do they ask once politely and then give up? No, they ask over and over again-without ceasing. They become increasingly more passionate and determined in their asking. So, why then, don't we just give our children everything they ask for?
Sometimes, the answer is yes, and we are able to give that thing to our child right away. But, sometimes the answer is no. Why do we say, "No," to a child whom we love? We say no to protect them from something dangerous. We say no to teach them patience of discipline. We say no because the timing is not right. We say no because we can see the big picture and what they want is not as good as what's coming. We say no because in our wisdom, we know that the thing that they are asking for is not good for them.
When I frame my doubts around prayer this way, I begin to truly appreciate the heart of the Father. I believe that God loves me. I believe that God wants to protect me and keep me from harm. I believe that God can see the big picture and knows what is best for me. I believe that sometimes God wants to teach me discipline and patience to help me be a stronger person.
This verse does not say to ask God once for something, in a very formal and pious way, and then to let Him get back to the business of being God. It doesn't mean that I ask once and then get mad at God and decide that He doesn't care about me. This scripture says to "pray without ceasing" and to keep asking. Now, does that mean I start yelling and throwing a grocery store temper tantrum? Probably not- but God would still love me if I did.
The other parts of that verse say to "rejoice always" and to "give thanks". Imagine this scenario: You child is asking you for something over and over again. You tell him no. Your child smiles at you and thanks you. "Thank you for loving me enough to tell me no when the thing I want is bad for me. Thank you that you are good and wise and know that there is something better for me. Thank you that you love me enough to teach me how to be stronger and more patient. Thank you for always listening to me, and loving me!"
Father God, thank you for loving me unconditionally and for caring enough about me that I can bring my needs and wants to you. Thank you that you have the compassion, wisdom, and knowledge to say no when it's in my best interest. Thank you that I can keep asking. Thank you that you always have what's best for me, even when I can't see it. Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes the answer is no, and sometimes the answer is wait a while.