In the past few months I've been learning more and more about prayer, and I've been trying to put into practice what I've been learning.
It's tempting to skate over passages like Luke 11, in which Jesus tells his disciples several different ways that God wants to answer their prayers. Jesus straight up says "Ask and you will receive", although we have all had times of asking and not receiving, so I think I've tended to write that off as a euphemism or hyperbole.
Then I was challenged to take it seriously, to actually voice my specific requests to God and believe that He will answer. I did, in two large situations that were outside of my control - one was the house, and the other was a situation I can't go into in such a public format as this - and got what I asked for in 0 for 2 of those situations.
Cynicism knocked at the door. "Remember me? Remember how comfortable and non-faith-stretching it was when you didn't bother God with what you wanted?" Then I slammed the door in Cynicism's face.
Yes, it sucks to ask for something and not get it. It is easy for the Enemy to step in and say that God is not really a good Father, that He doesn't really give good gifts. It is difficult to have to face reality, that sometimes I don't really know what is best for me. Y'know what is encouraging, though?
"Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he?"
I have a great earthly father. I never feared to ask him for anything. The thing is that I'm sure that at some point in the past 28 years he did not give me something I asked for because it was not in my best interest. I cannot remember a single one of those times, but I remember loads of great things that my dad gave me, like when my sister and I were young and he used to bring us presents on Valentine's Day, or when he would spot me $5 to buy lunch if I was short. If he chose not to give me something because it wasn't good for me, I know that it wouldn't stop me from asking him again in the future, but I really don't have memories of him denying me things. Probably because those things were so fleeting, unimportant, or bad for me that I swiftly forgot them after the initial disappointment.
What about when my Father in heaven denies me something? Why so quick to listen to the Enemy accuse my Father of not being good? I honestly can't list out a long string of unanswered prayers on my other Father's account either. I know they're there, but when I think of things that disappointed me, they're always overshadowed by the better thing that came instead. The fish or egg, if you will.
Even more so, I can pray for specific things without being disappointed if they don't come about when that thing is for someone else. Healing for this mama doesn't happen? God is still good. That brother is still blind? God works in mysterious ways. I have to live in someone's spare room instead of my own huge house? Why does God hate me?!
In the end, I think it comes down to this: I don't want to know how often the things I want are snakes and scorpions, because if I knew that, I would know how far I have to move toward operating in the power of the Holy Spirit. The best gift God can (and has) given to me is the Holy Spirit, but when I find out how many scorpions I ask for, it is a humbling reminder of how far I have to go in taking advantage of the best gift He has given.
So here goes...goodbye Cynicism. I'm embracing Humility and Disappointment, because at least they're pointing me in the right direction...greater maturity, less self-love and self-will, and more and more Holy Spirit.