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Pray with hands out, mouths open
Have you ever eaten a rock? I hope not, at least not on purpose. I admit I may have eaten a few very small ones unintentionally in an occasional biking mishap, but I’ve never just had a craving to munch on some limestone.
How many of you parents have sat down for dinner and plated up a coiling, angry snake, and set it in front of your child? None of you. When Brennan, my oldest, comes to me and says, “Dad, can I have a snack?” I give him something wholesome and nutritious. I do this because I love him and I want him to be well, and I want his growing body to have what it needs so that he may become a healthy adult someday. I do the same for my other two kids.
I would never give them something inedible or harmful. Now, they may very well find inedible or harmful things to nosh on their own, which in fact they do quite often, but that is a whole other story.
Jesus asks the same questions of a crowd of folks who come to hear him speak. He asks, as Matthew 7:9-11 tells us, “Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are 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!”
I believe Jesus uses this example to make a very clear point about the need to ask God for what we need. To put in the words of Biblical scholar Dale Bruner, “He intends to buck-up our wavering, unbelieving, reluctant-to-pray spirits and to encourage us to start asking! Jesus is trying to bring us by any means possible to the Father, hands out and mouths open!”
This is part of Jesus’ teaching us and imploring us to simply ask. How many things can I count right now that are wrong with my world? More than I care to get in to, honestly. But it seems that I alone am powerless to change the vast majority of these shortcomings. Let’s take the economy, as an obvious example. I have no power to impact the gross national product. And I find myself in many positions where the ability to control is far beyond my reach.
But my ability to control has no impact on my needs. I still need bread. I still need to give my kids fish to eat. It is in my need that I realize that we are not supposed to be in a dumb relationship with God, one where he is so distant and divine that he shouldn’t be bothered, nor one where we are so sinful that we should not try. So we are compelled to ask. We are compelled to seek God for his provision.
We are compelled to pray, with hands out and mouths open.