Are you afraid to ask for things? Can you ask on behalf of others, but find yourself struggling to ask for yourself?
I am not a very good ask-er. I hold back on asking all the time. Especially when it is for things that I want or do not want. I am very hesitant in the silliest of ways. I am more likely to settle and accept something than to ask.
It is not that I do not know how to ask questions. I ask questions all the time to learn, discover and grow. I can ask on behalf of others very easily, but when it comes to asking for myself I stumble all over the place. I feel bad about asking for customized orders at restaurants. I feel bad when something does not turn out right and I have to ask for a correction. When a small group I am part of is deciding where to go out to eat, I will usually remain quiet and allow the preferences of others to determine where we go.
What is that about?
I really do not know where or how I developed this tendency, but it is on my list of things that I am currently working on.
Impact on My Prayer Life
Why have I become convicted about this topic of asking? Well it has to do with my prayer life. Praying is one of the most important things that I do with my time. I love praying. This has not always been the case. You could say my history with prayer has been awkward and bumpy but has grown & developed in incredible ways.
I realized that when it comes to praying for and asking on behalf of others, I was bold, confident, and passionate. God is so good and it says in the scriptures that we should ask. So I ask away; asking for big things and little things and sometimes just plain silly things that are personal joys to one individual.
But when it comes to asking for myself, I am weak and doubt filled and very quick to rationalize that I am undeserving of having my prayer answered. I also do not want God to think that I am trying to use Him as a spiritual vending machine, so I do not ask. Back in April on was doing some prayer journaling on this topic of asking when I realized something. Perhaps I was not asking because I had already decided the answer was no.
The Predetermined No
How many times do we not ask for something because we believe that the answer to our question will be NO? We have predetermined in our minds the answer will be no, so we never even ask.
I confess, I am guilty of this way too often. I used the information that I am aware of to make an assumption about what someone may think or say or do, then I determine in my own mind what I think their answer will be. Then I calculate whether the question is worth asking.
Even if I ask the question, many times I am so neurotic that I have already thought up a retraction in mind just in case it still does not go the way I was thinking. Talk about being a control freak!
It was back in April that I realized I was also doing this with God. I know in my head that God’s ways are not our ways and that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, but still I assume away. Let me give you an example.
I may want to pray something like this, “Dear Lord, please bring healing to my eyes so that I may see without glasses.” Before I even get the words out of my mouth, I hit the emergency shut down button on this prayer.
Then my mind goes into overdrive spewing out reasons why this prayer wouldn’t be answered. Thoughts like, “I live in a broken world, this is just a natural part of that,” or “I’ve had glasses since I was in second grade, this is just a part of my life,” or “perhaps a prayer that my eyes do not get worse is better,” or “there are blind people that I should be praying for that deserve sight more than I,” or “I am so undeserving of a miracle, especially of one that is so self focused as my personal eye sight.”
On and on these thoughts go. In the end I do not pray the prayer because I have predetermined the answer will be NO. I was not even giving God the opportunity to say YES.
A Confused Mind
On April 12, 2017 I just let it all flow out with God. I felt so badly about not coming in open, forthright manner to ask of God. I was even worried that I may be suffering from a hardened heart towards Him.
I could almost feel God laughing at me, the way a parent laughs when their child states something in such an obvious way that is true, but it has never been expressed that way before. I really felt like God’s response to me was that I did not have a hardened heart, only a confused mind.
I felt convicted to begin asking for anything and everything that I could think of asking God about. The focus was not on receiving at all. It was more an exercise in my ability to be able to ask.
It was actually really tough for me to do this at first. It was like I was testing the water with my toes and only wading in. I started to ask, with the small stuff. Then I prayed into the situations that were currently bringing me anxiety. I would stall out and go blank momentarily and then could begin again.
Then, like a kid who figures out they can really swim, I went for it with reckless abandon. I asked God some questions that I had to sit back in awe of. I asked for things for my marriage and for my children. I asked for my friends and for the people in my community.
I asked for me. I asked that God would heal my eyes and that the words I write would speak encouragement deep into the hearts of my readers. I asked for opportunities to speak. I asked for rebuilding of broken relationships and strongholds to be broken. I asked for meaningful, heartfelt, conversations to draw family together. I asked for forgiveness from bitterness, hurt, and frustration. I asked for healing for feelings of abandonment.
I even asked for silly things, like camels for a friend. That is an inside joke, or perhaps an inside prayer, for one of my closest friends. God knows. God tells us to come to Him with the heart of a child. Kids ask some silly things, so it seems that it should be ok for me to ask silly things of God.
So what came from that night of prayer? Well, I realized that I just need to ask away, without attempting to predetermine my answer, be it from God or from anyone else. It was also proof that I am still a severe work in progress, which I anticipate being for the rest of my days.
To my knowledge, God has already answered some of my prayers. He may have answered more that, I just have not realized yet. Some could be in progress as I write this. I should say that my eyesight is still poor without my glasses. Although I did get new glasses to match a change in my astigmatism. Praise God for that.
I am attempting to increase my awareness of asking. I want to be able to freely ask and not be hindered by my tendency to speculate and make assumptions.
How is your asking ability?
What about you? How is your ability to ask from God or from others in your life? Do you get caught up in your mind with assigning predetermined no’s? What is one thing that you need to ask for today?
Do Not Take Away the Joy
An amazing friend once told me that if I do not ask and allow others into my needs, struggles, and challenges that I rob them of the joy of serving. A joy which I so prominently profess as I encourage others to be givers.
When I think of asking I often envision myself as an annoyance, or a pest, or a problem. I see myself as being better off for asking, but making someone else worse off because I asked. I do not want to make others worse off.
Joy is multiplied when shared. What if by our asking of God and others, many are better off and have the opportunity to experience joy?
“This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks!” John 16:23-24 (Message)
We serve an amazing, incredible, and loving God. A God who wants us to come, who wants us to ask away. A God who gave us Jesus and the Holy Spirit to help us with our requests. A God who can make our joy be like a river overflowing its banks.
Thank You for the ways You help us in the craziest areas of our lives. Thank You so much for the way You are teaching me to ask. Help us all to ask away. Helps us to let You determine how You will shape both our requests and their answers. Help us to stop predetermining what the answer will be before we even make a request.
Lord, help us to have a bold and confident relationship with You. Help us to know in both mind and heart that because of the great sacrifice Jesus made for us, we can come to You with any and all questions that we have.
In the name of Jesus, who set the example for us of how to ask, amen.