Some patterns we see in the way the Lord interacts with us, his children, are easier to spot than others. How the Lord deals with questions from us is not cut and dried, because his response is based on the laws of agency and in His love for us. There are conditions and restrictions to how he can answer our questions. But there are patterns because there are specific rules that apply.
First, let’s look at how his love for us affects his ability to answer our questions. In Matthew 7:6-11 He gives a series of instructions, all of which he, himself, lives by. Read down through these and then we will talk about each one.
6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
In verse six we are told that we should not give that which is sacred to those who do not have the capacity or the understanding to appreciate what is being given to them. It would be as useless as giving pearls to a pig. When we go to the Lord in prayer and ask for sacred things, it is His judgment that counts as to whether or not we are ready for such things. If He were to give us information or things that are beyond our abilities to handle or appreciate, or keep sacred, it would be like giving that which is holy to a dog. We would profane or spoil that thing which is sacred. So when we ask, we always add, “Thy will be done” at the end.
To get no answer or a “No” answer does not mean the Lord does not love us. It may just mean that we are not yet ready for the version we want of what we are asking. Perhaps the Lord will provide us something today that will prepare us to receive the blessing we are asking for, but it may be a long while before we are ready to receive the fullness of the blessing sought.
Verses seven and eight seem to contradict some of life’s experiences. We are promised that we will receive if we but ask. Yet we all know that we have asked for things and not gotten what we asked for. Right? Be honest with yourself here, we have all been disappointed at some point or another. Refer back to the previous paragraph. The Lord promises that we will always be answered. It may be a No, or a Maybe, or a Not Yet, but we will always be answered. The difficulty we run into here is that praying takes a lot of practice, and we need to learn how to listen for answers. That is a skill most of us really lack.
The other part of praying we often lack is the faith that the Lord really does remember what we have asked for. I have received answers to prayers 20+ years after I asked for something, and had forgotten it perhaps two days after I had asked. But the Lord remembered, and when it was the right time, I got my answer. Often I needed many things to happen in my life before I was ready to get that particular answer. He worked with me for years to prepare me for that day, and when it came, He answered my prayer. He never forgets anything we ask of him. There are prayers I have prayed that upon reflection, I hope he will forget what I said, but sadly, His memory is perfect.
Governed by love
The important thing to remember here is that all of His answers to us have to be governed by his love and understanding of our spiritual and physical stature. It is He who counsels us not to run faster than we ought lest we stumble and fall. The Lord certainly will not be guilty of violating his own counsel. This is why praying takes so much faith. We tend to think in terms of the here and now. God is not so restricted in his thinking. He sees our lives from the beginning to the end, all at the same time. He judges what is best for us, what will contribute to our greatest happiness, and answers accordingly. We must learn to defer to His greater sight and wisdom.
The remaining verses point out to us that if we, being evil by nature, know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more so will God, who is pure and holy be able to give good gifts to us, His children?
It is good to know that the answers to our prayers are governed by God’s love for us. It is important to remember that He will give us or perhaps I should say, reward us, in the end, whatever we want, whether good or evil. If we want that which is good, we need to pursue it in our lives, wherever we find it. He will answer our prayers. He never ignores the petitions of his children. We just need to exercise faith that if we are not yet ready for his answer, we need to be the one to change, not Him.
This brings us to the agency barrier, which I will discuss in the next part, God’s Use of Patterns – Questions Part 2.