“Which of your fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:11-13
There’s something special about giving someone THE gift. That one item they want more than anything else. It’s an incredible feeling when you see their face light up with joy at the sight of THE gift, and you know that you are responsible for their happiness.
This week’s passage probes us to think about how we view God: do we see him as the Almighty Stickler or as a Heavenly Father who relishes in giving gifts?
Here in the book of Luke, Jesus is teaching about prayer. A few verses earlier, Jesus tells his disciples a parable: a man goes to his friend’s house in the middle of the night, knocks on his door and asks if he can have some bread for a person in need. The man inside the house grumbles, “Go away! The door is locked, it’s the middle of the night!” Yet, the man on the outside keeps knocking over and over and pleads with him, “Please! My friend is in great need of some bread, please help me!” Finally, not because he loves this guy outside, but just to shut him up, the man gives him some bread.
I think that for some of us, our view of God stops here. Sure, we could come to God even with the most heartfelt prayer ever, but God is just up in heaven, shaking his head and grumbling. Maybe he is grumbling because he just doesn’t care about us. Maybe he is shaking his head because he is looking down, seeing everything we’ve done wrong. He brings out his list of all the Sundays we have missed church and points to them. He says to us, “How do you have the audacity of asking me for anything, when you’ve disappointed me so many times?”
I know this because I have felt this way before. Is this how you view God?
Luckily, Jesus’ teaching doesn’t stop there. Jesus proceeds to provide an example of a father here on earth. He asks, “Who knows any loving father who would give his son a scorpion when he asks for an egg?” Of course, the answer is, no father would! We love to give our loved ones exactly what they need!
After asking his question about earthly fathers, Jesus teaches us that God our heavenly Father. So with that in mind, if even a begrudging man is willing to give his friend some bread, and if even a loving (yet imperfect) father is willing to give his son what he asks for, then HOW MUCH MORE will God, our perfect Father in Heaven, who loves us enough to even sacrifice his own son, HOW MUCH MORE will God give us what we ask for?!
Jesus is teaching us to view God as a Father who cares for us deeply and who delights in giving gifts to his children, not as a stickler who grumbles at our requests.
When I am reminded of that, it changes my whole outlook on prayer! Knowing that we are coming to a Father who loves us, is happy to give us what we ask, and who wants to give us good things changes everything! It means that we are free to share our burdens, hopes, dreams, fears, and requests. It means we can come to God with confidence, not fearfully walking on eggshells. And that we can truly trust when Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you” (Luke 11:9). Praying doesn’t seem so much like a religious ritual to check off my spiritual to-do list, but a precious time of conversation with my Father who loves me. How awesome is that?
But there’s one more thing this passage teaches us about praying…did you notice that in all the examples, the characters were asking for things they needed? They weren’t asking for a new car, another pair of shoes, or the coolest toy, they were asking for bread, eggs, and a fish – essential items for living.
That being said, of course we can ask God for things that we want. But this passage doesn’t teach us, “Ask for all the things you want and God will give them to you.” Instead, it teaches, “Ask God for the things you need, and He will provide.” And in the last part of our Luke verses, we see that God, as our Father, knows that the number one thing we need is the Holy Spirit in our lives when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
This week, let’s live in the freedom that comes when we view God as a loving Father, not as an Almighty Stickler.
Questions for thought:
1. Be honest with yourself and God: do you view God as an Almighty Stickler or as a loving Father? Why do you view God that way? Many times, our view of God is based on our earthly father. Was your father loving and accepting, or always pointing out what you did wrong? Was your father invested in your life or somewhat aloof and distant? Unfortunately, our childhood experiences are often a hurdle to correctly seeing God as a loving Father. Read through verses this week that speak of God’s love and ask yourself, “Do I view God as he really is, or how my father was?” No matter what kind of fatherly experience we had, it is up to us to choose to believe the truth of the Bible instead of the bias of our experiences.
2. How does knowing that God is a loving Father who delights in giving gifts to his children change how you will pray this week? There is freedom in knowing that God loves us!
3. Here on earth, sometimes parents do not give their children everything they ask for, because they can see a bigger picture: perhaps it’s something they want instead of need, perhaps it would be harmful, or perhaps they know that if their child can wait a little longer, they can give them something even greater than what they had asked for. Reflect on how this applies to God as our Heavenly Father and any unanswered prayers in your life.
Verses about God’s love for further reflection:
John 3:16; Romans 8:27-39; Romans 5:6-8; 1 John 3:1; 1 John 3:16; Romans 8:15-17; Psalm 103:1-22; Psalm 91:1-16