Ask & You Shall Receive
One of my fondest memories from my childhood was our Christmas tradition of looking through the Sears catalog — taking time to dog-ear the pages with our favorite things. My cousin Grady would write our annual letter to my Aunt JoAnna who lived in San Francisco at the time. She spoiled us with those things that Santa didn’t have room for on his sleigh or that our parents had already said they might not be able to get that year.
When I visited my family at Thanksgiving time last year, all those memories came flooding back as we sat around the table eating good food and poring through boxes of pictures and old letters. My Aunt JoAnna read me an excerpt from one of those letters from 1975 written in an eleven year old’s scrawl. Michelle wants a Tamu doll, dresses for school, and more paper dolls. Her favorite color is green. I want a calculator, a new bike, and art supplies. “Grady always had a pricier list, and he always attached pictures from the Sears catalog” my Aunt recalled. My cousins and I all grew up as only children in single parent homes, so our mothers headed our households, and they always knew best.
I didn’t really know much about fathers at the time other than what I saw on TV, but I knew two fathers pretty well –Father Lawlor from Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church and Our Father in Heaven to whom I prayed each night. I learned at an early age to respect the priest and to revere God. If I didn’t learn anything else in mass, I learned those two things. As a child, I loved attending mass — not because it made sense to me, but because there was order. I liked structure. I also liked that there were no surprises; I always knew what to expect, and if I forgot, there were missalettes in each pew with the prayers so I could follow along. It even noted when to stand, kneel, and sit. I wasn’t even raised Catholic, but the church was one block from my house, so I had no excuse for missing mass.
As time went on, I eventually converted to Catholicism at the age of 17. It was my first big decision as an adult. I was leaving for college soon, and I wanted to be part of this mystical body of Christ. Before too long, I had joined the United States Air Force and worshiped in many Catholic churches throughout this great nation of ours. What I noticed was that these other churches weren’t like my small town church. Though the structure was the same, I didn’t quite feel as if I were part of anything. In fact, I felt like a stranger, and in some cases, an outcast. Even then I knew that the will of God wouldn’t take me to a place where the grace of God wouldn’t follow. No matter how uncomfortable I sometimes felt, I wasn’t alone.
Soon I started to visit churches with my friends and discovered that I hungered for what they had to offer. I was being fed for the first time, and I desperately wanted more. This spiritual nourishment sustained me through the week, and I could hardly wait until Sunday to get yet another portion. When I moved from base to base and city to city, I visited many more churches, and they all had something to offer that the previous one didn’t –singles groups, knitting ministries, women’s ministries, and pantries for the poor. Those early years of my adult life helped me to realize that I wanted to serve God and his people — whatever that looked like. I even tried to freestyle it, thinking that whatever I tried to do, God would co-sign my efforts to serve. I dreamed that I would travel all over the world spreading the Gospel, living as a pauper, and teaching English to support myself. On some level, I think he giggled at my dream while assuring me that he needed me right here.
Now that I’m older, I’m still serving, and I have a ravenous appetite for the word of God. I still dream, but I’m a better listener now and don’t freestyle as much. I’ve prayed for more, and he gave me more. I asked God to use me, and he has certainly done that. I’ve prayed for protection, and there is nothing that I fear. I’ve even asked God to reveal my purpose and a snapshot of his plan, and he has answered those requests as well. What I haven’t mentioned is that those answered prayers have never come to fruition in the form or manner that I expected. He has always exceeded my expectations. After all, our Father knows best, and he will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right (Psalm 84:11).
So I ask that you expect the unexpected. Single ladies often times pray for a good man, and they have this long list of attributes that he must have. How about praying for a husband. If this is what God has promised you, your husband will arrive at the appointed time, and you will know him when you see him. He may not come wrapped in fine clothes, a Harvard law degree, and driving a shiny Benz, but he he will be single and chosen for you by the best match maker the world has ever known.
Some of us pray for a promotion. Well, you’re on the right track. The only one with power to appoint and promote is God. Once you have been faithful over a few things, God will put you in charge of many things (Matthew 25:23). I recall a time in my life when everyone else thought I was ready for the next step, and I knew in my heart that I wasn’t because my Father told me to be still. I didn’t lack faith in my abilities; instead, I had faith in his divine plan for my life. That type of obedience has been a life changer.
Finally, some of us pray for health and strength, but we aren’t willing to do the work necessary for good health and strength. We expect God to do all the work. Just because he can perform miracles, doesn’t mean that he has promised you one. Many of us have weighty crosses to carry, but God still sustains us each day — cross and all. Just remember when you’re praying that God already knows what you want and what you need. Keep seeking, keep asking, and keep knocking. Eventually, God will answer because our father knows best.