Yesterday I attended a communion service in a neighbouring Circuit, the whole service ministered to me but probably most particularly the sermon, as we were reminded of the God who likes to be asked. The text was Luke 11: 5-13, and the encouragement given was to not only be persistent but actually "cheeky" in prayer. I rather liked that because it blew the cobwebs away from an image of God that it is so easy for me to fall into believing, and I suspect that I am not alone! That image is of a God who although not distant does like us to get things right, to be living in the right way and wanting the right things! We were reminded that there are things that we don't pray for because we fear that they might not be acceptable or "right". To be cheeky in prayer then is to have such an open relationship with God that we dare to risk the cheek in the knowledge that we will be given good gifts and that if what we are asking for is ultimately harmful then somehow through the openness of that relationship we will know and will be guided to something much better.
All of that got me thinking about what I would really like to ask God for, so I decided to do some soul searching and I have come to the conclusion that more than anything I want wisdom. Now I am not being pious or self righteousness, I am simply acknowledging my need and pondering the number of times in life when I could and should have come to God in prayer rather than simply ploughing ahead in my own wisdom and strength.
I began to ponder why I didn't ask, and I found the answer to be quite revealing about my own relationship with God; I don't ask because I don't have the "cheek" to, because I don't see myself as acceptable to him, and I feel that somehow I should get it right on my own! How odd, because this is not the God I preach, the God I preach calls me precious and honoured in his sight and delights to receive me into his presence, the God I preach invites me in through the veil, into the secret place of prayer where I can open my heart in intimate union with him. So who is calling me unworthy? The answer is simple, I am! So maybe I need wisdom to re-establish a right relationship with the God that I preach, the God who welcomes me with open arms, the God who enjoys my company, the God who knows and loves me completely!
I return to the reading that the sermon was based on and hear Jesus words afresh:
"Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing—you’re at least decent to your own children. And don’t you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?”