One morning at breakfast I had an interesting realization about God as I was offering my daughter 3 choices for breakfast.
I knew she was hungry, but she wasn’t focused on choosing anything. I had offered her 3 good things: cereal, eggs, or oatmeal. She could have any one of those 3 for breakfast and I would be happy. But until she chose one, I wasn’t going to feed her, lest her eggs go cold or her cereal get soggy. She had to ask for it. And sure, I could have just made her a bowl of oatmeal and told her to eat it, but I wanted her breakfast to be an enjoyable experience of eating something she desired.
A light bulb went off as I realized that God must think about us the same way, wanting to give us things but waiting for us to ask. Breakfast obviously isn’t a perfect analogy to God, but it got me reflecting on an aspect of prayer and God’s will that I hadn’t really considered thoroughly.
Sometimes we wonder, “why pray for things when God already knows what we need, or when he already has a plan for us?” It seems futile to change the mind of God, right? But then you read in Genesis 18 that Abraham pleaded to God not to destroy the city of Sodom. And Jesus shows us his insistence on our persistence through the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18 and the persistent neighbor in Luke 11- that we will get what we need if we continue asking for it.
Just like I knew my daughter was hungry, I was waiting for her to ask for it. God wants to give us good things, but he wants to do so in relationship. He wants us to pray and to ask for things because it gives us an opportunity to think of others, or to share our hearts and receive His heart. It’s a chance for deeper conversion and union with Him. If God just always gave us what we need, we would have no idea that we really needed it.
God’s will is not oppressive or restrictive. His will is for us to be in union with Him for eternity, and there could be many ways to get there. Oftentimes I think many people are either paralyzed with fear about making a wrong decision that is not “God’s will,” or just go about their lives not asking God for things because they think whatever happens will be “God’s will.” Both of these miss the point of His will!
One experience I have with this was at the end of college when I was agonizing over whether or not to get a job as a youth minister in the states, or do mission work outside the country. As I was journaling one day, I wanted God to make my path clear to me and I begged the Lord to show me, saying “I just want to love you and serve you!” I heard God clearly in the next words I wrote in my journal: “My will is not black and white. You could do either one and still love me.”
There was freedom there because I realized there are many ways to love God, and it’s not like if I picked the wrong one God would punish me to an unhappy life. Of course God still has a plan for us, but he moves in our lives while still respecting our free will, all the while trying to lead us closer to Him.
The point is: God’s will is to have a relationship with us, for us to be holy and intercessory prayer helps us get there. So pick your breakfast, and ask God for what you need!