I confess my biggest struggle in my faith walk is doubt. I don’t doubt the Lord’s ability to answer my prayers, I just doubt that He will. I pray expecting Him to say no and deny my request, just because He can.
I remember the first time I related to Matthew 7:9:
What man among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?
My childhood was filled with the stones my father had given me.
Shortly after my birth, my father went active duty in Marine Corps. He parented me like I was one of his young recruits; he expected good order and discipline at all times. As a six year old, I remember some of my toys being tossed in the trash because they were not in their proper place. I knew not to question his authority. I was very familiar with his look of disapproval. Even though I only remember receiving physical discipline once, I was afraid of making a mistake and disappointing him.
While I didn’t understand it at the time, I now know what I experienced was a direct result of what was going on in my father’s life. I cannot comprehend what it was like to fight in an ugly war in the jungles of Vietnam. I don’t understand what it was like to come home to an ungrateful nation who spat in the face of service members. I can’t image participating in hundreds of funerals for comrades killed on the battlefield. I will never know the burdens, guilt and demons he carried. Dad never talked about the war and I knew better than to ask.
I need to be clear: I was well-cared for during my childhood. I never went without the necessities, and at times, I was indulged. Yet it always seemed when I gathered up the courage to ask for something that was really important to me, I received a quick, disapproving no. I knew not to question why; my father had told me once before that his answer was no “because he said so.“
My strict upbringing did have countless positive results. I have a strong work ethic. I am organized and a planner. I follow through on responsibilities and honor my word. I always strive to do my best. I cautiously weigh all risks. However, because I don’t want to be disappointed, I am conditioned to expect no for an answer.
I recently realized my conditioned expectation has bled over into my relationship with my Heavenly Father: I expect Him to give me a stone when I ask for bread, especially when it is something that means the most to me.
I know the Lord is always good. He loves me with an everlasting love. He loved me enough to allow His son to die on a cross for my sins. His Word even says to “ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8).
I have reached the point in my faith walk where the rubber is meeting the road: I must change the way I pray.
With each request, I need to examine my heart. I need to pray in alignment with His Word. I need to pray with the right motives and not for selfish gain. I need to pray without doubt or wavering faith (James 1:6). Most importantly, I need to pray surrendered and ask for His will to be done.
Even if God’s answer is an immediate no, I will trust that it is for my good. He is working out His perfect plan for my life. When His yes comes, it will be better than I can imagine.
So from now on, I will boldly ask, seek and knock, expecting and believing the Lord will give me bread. And not any ol’ stale, discarded bread, but fresh just-out-of-the-oven life-sustaining Bread!