Many of us have experienced times when we felt like the little boy who began his prayer by saying, “Hello, is anybody up there?” The times when God seems distant are bad enough, but the times when He seems downright deaf are even worse. Those can really try your faith.
When one of my two sons says, “Daddy, I want to talk you,” that child has my attention. He doesn’t have to beg for it. The mere fact that I am a loving father and want to hear whatever my child might deem worthy to discuss is all it takes. Okay, along those same lines, in Matthew 7:7-11, Jesus says:
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. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (N.K.J.V., emphasis mine)
You see, not only can God do anything an earthly father can do, He can also do the “how much more” part an earthly father can’t do. Oh, we like the sounds of that, don’t we? So, I could stop right there and have a nice little blog post. But the problem is that the title of this post is “Is Anybody Up There?” rather than “How Much More.”
I know what Jesus says there in Matthew 7:7-11. I’ve read it many times, preached from it many times, and heard it preached from many times. Unfortunately, though, I also know that on occasion I’ve felt like I was talking to the ceiling as I’ve tried to pray. I’ve asked and not had it given to me. I’ve sought and not found. I’ve knocked and had the door stay closed. What do we do with such times? How do we explain them? How do we keep our faith during them?
I think our best approach is to go back to Christ’s comparison of God to an earthly father. I’m sure there have been times when each of my two sons thought that I was distant or deaf when, in reality, I was neither. The misconception was simply the result of me not treating every one of those conversations like it was the singular most important conversation I would ever have with that child. Just because I didn’t feel the need to immediately rush to the child’s side, smother him with kisses and assurances, and grant any request he cared to make, didn’t mean that I wasn’t hearing what he was saying.
Coming at Christ’s promise another way, experts in the New Testament’s original Greek tell us that the Greek behind the words of Matthew 7:7-11 are best translated as “keep on asking,” “keep on seeking,” and “keep on knocking.” The teaching is that God doesn’t always immediately grant the giving, the finding, or the opening. Sometimes He only grants it after you’ve gone to Him with many, many repetitions of the same request.
One of my favorite memories involves my youngest son, Royce, and his request for me to take our family to McDonalds. The four of us had been on vacation for a full week, and we had enjoyed eating at a series of restaurants over the course of those days. Every time we had taken a family vote to decide where to eat, Royce had voted for McDonalds and been outvoted. But at the end of the week, as we were making our way back home in the Dodge Caravan, we decided to make yet another stop for another meal. That called for another vote, and so I said, “Alright, where does everybody want to eat?” Those words had scarcely fallen from my lips before Royce leaned up in his car seat in the back and said with every ounce of conviction he could muster, “MCDONALDS.” And what was my response to that? I just cracked up and said, “Okay, Royce, you win.” My thinking was, “Any kid who shows that kind of tenacity in making the same request after a week’s worth of rejections has got to be rewarded.”
I don’t know where all this finds you today, but maybe you’ve been praying and praying for a certain thing that God hasn’t granted yet. So, maybe you’re wondering, “Is anybody up there?” Well, God had me write this post for you. Yes, He’s up there. Yes, He’s listening. And, yes, He has heard all your previous prayers. He’s just waiting on His perfect timing to grant your request. Remember, if an earthly father can eventually get his kid to McDonalds, how much more can a loving, omnipotent, heavenly father grant your request?
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