One of my favorite childhood memories involves the Sears catalog. Just prior to the Christmas season Sears would publish a special holiday catalog (remember, this was long before Wal-Mart…Sears was the place back then). The entire back half of the catalog was devoted exclusively to toys. I would spend hours going through that book. One page at a time, circling everything that I “wanted“. Once that was done I would narrow down my choices to a one page list of items that I “really wanted.” Then it was time for the grand finale. I would take that list to my parents and emphasize to them the few items from the list that I “really, really wanted.” Looking back, I realize that for me there was as much joy in the asking as there was in the receiving.
Funny how life changes as we get older, isn’t it? Maybe it’s just me but I really don’t like having to ask for things anymore. Something about the whole process makes me uncomfortable. In fact, in some situations, if I have to ask, I would almost rather do without. I know. I’m strange. The real problem is when that type of thinking begins to spill over into my relationship with Christ. So much of our relationship with God is built upon the concept of asking. In fact, James says it this way, “You do not have because you do not ask.” That can mean big problems for those of us who struggle with this whole area of asking. At times I have wondered, if God already knows the things I have need of me, why do I have to ask? Really, why do I have to ask in order to receive? And why in the world would failing to ask keep Him from giving?
There is so much that I could write at this moment in response to my own questions. In my mind I know the reasons why God wants us to ask. Theological reasons. Relational reasons. Practical reasons. But I want to set all those aside for the moment and focus on a different aspect of asking, one that takes me back to those childhood days with the Sears catalog. For me as a young child the thrill of asking was closely connected to my sense of anticipation. In my heart I really believed that my parents could and would give me the things I wanted. There was never a doubt in my mind. I believed that the only thing necessary was to make my desires known to them. If I only asked, all things were possible. The asking was a reflection of my anticipation, my hopes, my faith in my father’s ability to provide.
Life has a way of making us become “jaded“. As a pastor and missionary for over 20 years, I have noticed that so many people in the body of Christ have completely lost their sense of anticipation. I am not condemning. I understand. I sympathize. It’s hard to ask when in your heart you just don’t believe that He hears, cares, or is even able. Why invest the time and energy when you just don’t think it will make a difference anyway? I really believe that most of us need a revival of anticipation and hope. We desperately need to be reminded that our Father who is in heaven “will give the good those to those who ask Him!” It is high time that we return to the “catalog” of our souls (i.e. His Word) and invest hours going through that book. One page at a time, circling every promise He has made. That one habit, more than anything else, will foster and strengthen the sense of anticipation in our lives. And once we have hope, we will find it easy to ask again.