Ask. It will be Given
October 20, 2019
Rev. Fritz Nelson
Text: Luke 18:1-8
Sometimes it just seems like God doesn’t hear our prayers. Or if God hears them, the divine self certainly isn’t answering them. I often feel most unheard when I’m job hunting. Perhaps because of the fear of starving or loosing my house, or the pain of staying in a miserable employment situation, but I want my job hunting prayers answered my way, right away. After being ignored, or rejected, or even worse being verbally offered a job and then ghosted, I began to wonder. I begin to question. “God, if you’re all powerful, if you care about me, then why can’t you get me a new job.” The responding silence deafens.
When have you prayed and felt God didn’t care? When have you prayed and felt God may not have even heard? One way to read Jesus’ parable about the widow and the unjust judge suggests we just need to pray harder, to keep bugging God until the divine self gives in just to shut us up.
Yet to conclude we must lobby and harass God to have our prayers heard completely misses the point. “Ask,” Jesus tells his disciples, “and you will receive.” And he tells them, “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.” And again, “If you ask anything in my name I will do it.” And so on. To say, in this parable, God acts like an unjust judge misunderstands God. Where the judge is unjust, God is just. Where the judge is uncaring, God cares. If even the unjust judge will give in to the widow, Jesus implies, how much more will God, who cares, who considers us his chosen one, respond.
Unlike the unjust judge, God hears our prayers and quickly grants us justice. So why does it sometime seems God refuses to answer.
Perhaps God doesn’t answer due to our lack of faith. Try as we might, each of us lack conviction, we harbor doubts, like Jesus’ disciples we are people of little faith. But its to those people of little faith Jesus makes his promise of response. All it takes is faith the size of a mustard seed. That little bit is enough. Enough for God to hear our prayers, enough for the divine self to act upon our cries.
So then, what gives?
I recently saw a Facebook meme saying something like: “God was with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fire, he didn’t put the fire out.” Often when we pray we want God to solve our problem or change our situation. We want God to find us the job. We want God to cure the cancer. We want God to make us rich. Instead God gives us the strength to endure. My mother used to testify to the gift God gave her, over six years of dying from cancer, to separate her spirit and her soul from the disease eating her body. Cancer never owned her. In giving her strength, God enabled her to be a testimony to others also suffering.
Or possibly we are praying for someone else when we should be praying for ourselves. According to my counselor friends every troubled kid indicates even more troubled parents. The parents want the counselor to fix their kids when really they should be fixing themselves. Instead of focusing on the log in our own eye we tend to fixate on the splinter in our neighbor’s. Instead of asking God to fix the splinters we really should be humbling ourselves and asking God to help us fix ourselves – to bring the healing needed to keep jobs, the grace to build positive relationships, the peace to heal deep anger, the wisdom to unlearn destructive thoughts and behaviors.
Our free will also can limit our all powerful God. I’m convinced this is why job searches take so long. Not only do I have to hear God’s call to apply for the perfect job, the people hiring need to hear God’s call to hire me. When they don’t everyone has to start over. The father of the prodigal son prayed daily for his son to come home, but until his son found himself in the pig pen, humbled himself, accepted the consequences for his actions, pulled himself out of the muck and began the journey home, the father’s prayer remained unanswered. God can help us endure. God can help us, if necessary, escape. God can help us be people of grace and forgiveness, people able to maintain the ties that bind even if they’re but frayed rope, but God can’t unilaterally change someone who doesn’t want to change.
Our own actions can also limit God. Sometimes to experience our prayers being answered we have to get our rear ends off our couches and take action. The shepherd finds the lost sheep by searching. The woman finds the lost coin by looking. The disciples experience Jesus by following him, by living public lives of grace, reconciliation, healing and holy fellowship. God sends us out to answer the prayers of others. God calls us into holy action to bring about the very new creation we desire. We can pray all day for a new job, but if we don’t actually send out any applications we probably won’t get one. We can, and should, pray for the children of our community. Its even better to take the time to know them, to fight for good schools, safety nets for their parents and summer job opportunities, and so on.
Finally sometimes all we need to do is open our eyes. Every day our God, the just judge, intervenes to bring to us, the chosen ones. And yet, Jesus laments, we have so little faith. Each breath is a gift. Each morsel of food we eat is holy. Each healthy relationship is a blessing. Each time we forgive or are forgiven is an act of grace. We’re like children who complain their parents never do anything for them when they have literally given everything – its just everything doesn’t include a new corvette for their 16th birthday.
We ask, and it is given. We seek, and we do find. We knock and doors are opened to us. We don’t need to nag. We don’t need to beg. We don’t need to lobby. We don’t need to bribe. We are God’s chosen. We are loved more than we can even imagine. God hears our prayers and God answers them – for no other reason than God’s the divine self and we are the divine creation. Maybe we don’t get the answer we want. Maybe it doesn’t come as soon as we want. Or how we want. But answers do come. They always come.