I was sitting with six of my middle school girls from church the other night, sprawled out on the concrete steps out front of the door. The girls insisted on having our little talk out there, even though it was dark and we always get eaten alive by mosquitos. Sometimes they are quiet, but last night, they wanted to talk. “What are you all hoping and waiting for?” I asked. Our lesson that night had been on setting our hope on the return of Christ instead of waiting for lesser things. To be honest, I was wondering how many of them had made a connection between their lives and the lesson. I was wrong.
“All I want is a puppy,” one girl jumped right in. “It’s all I think about and work toward now.”
We had a great discussion the rest of that night about our desires and hope in Christ. But there was a sweet innocence to her desire that lodged itself in my heart.
It hit again today when four-year-old Lucy, my nanny girl, trudged into her bedroom where I was in the middle of a project. “My chicken died, and I’m sad.”
Once again, we had a little talk, about favorite chickens and bobcats and heaven, where there will be no more death. Her little expression of sadness at finding a dead chicken carried that same tone of innocent desire as my young friend who dreamed of her own puppy.
The two conversations blended tonight as I was walking, enjoying the cool September breeze and being real with God about how I felt about life. I suddenly wondered if God heard me very much like those girls. “All I can think about is a puppy.” “I’m sad my chicken died.” When my mind is crowded with my life, every issue seems momentous. To God, they’re simple things in a much bigger world, his grand scheme of redemption that marches on through centuries into eternity.
But the remarkable thing is, he cares.
That care, like a father who wraps his little girl in his arms and sooths her at the loss of a chicken, comes down to my level and understands. There are times he must explain that a puppy is not the best thing at the moment—but there is a best thing, and he will go to the ends of the earth to make sure his little girl is happy. Jesus reasoned the same way: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?”
Knowing his care and equipped with such a promise, I can bring specific and bold requests. Yet, in the journey of learning how to pray—a journey that will last the rest of my life—I am discovering that prayer is much more than bringing a list of requests. It’s an experiential meeting with the Living God that leaves my desires changed. I come caught up in the anxieties of this life, and I pour them all out to him. It takes time, but I come away sure he has heard and will provide my temporal needs and even more sure that he is all I really want.
That is where the tension lies. I cannot come merely demanding my way. God does not answer prayers for our idols. His great desire is for my ultimate happiness in himself, not people or things. Somehow, through that messy, real process of dealing with God, he hears those childlike requests, answers them in his time, and then in the process fills me with himself. It’s a sweet thing to get to the place in prayer when he has so satisfied and changed my heart that everything else pales in comparison.
Pray bold prayers. He is a Father who cares deeply. But go to prayer to looking for more than your list—go to enjoy him. He’s the only one who will ever really satisfy.