I remember asking my parents for things when I was little and being very careful about how I asked. I would stack up all the reason why the thing I was asking for would improve my life, make me a better kid, and why they would enjoy giving me what I wanted. I would say what I needed to say and make the points I needed to make – all so that I could hear a “yes” from my parents.
The same thought process translates to our prayer lives. We ask for things in prayer all of the time. Some of us may even frame what we want in the very best light to God in order to get a “yes” from him. Sometimes we spend days, weeks, or even years asking for something that we truly believe is best for us. There’s nothing wrong with asking God for things and being persistent in prayer. God is patient, loving, and always ready to listen. But are we growing and deepening our relationship with God if we’re only focusing on what we want for ourselves?
In Matthew 26 we read about Jesus’ time in prayer right before his betrayal and arrest. Jesus shows us what persistent prayer looks like. He asks his Father for something he wants multiple times in a row – just like we do. But there’s something else he says in these prayers that makes all the difference.
He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
“My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.”
So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again.
Jesus was persistent in his prayers, but he also placed God’s will above what he was asking for. Something I didn’t understand when I was younger was that when my parent’s answer was “no” it was for my benefit in the long run. When God’s answer is “no” or “not yet” or anything else there is one thing we can be sure of – he answers in such a way where what is best for us is his priority. When you don’t understand why he answers the way he does remember that God’s best is your best.
The perfect scenarios we imagine for our lives don’t even come close to the plans God has already written for us. He sees things we don’t see. He has considered things we haven’t thought of. He knows the areas of our lives and our hearts that we don’t. His thoughts and his ways are higher than ours. There is no one in the world who knows more about what you truly need than your Heavenly Father. His way is best every time, no matter what.
John 16:33 says “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
God’s best for you is still the best even when we face trials and sorrows, even when we don’t understand, and even when your feelings tell you otherwise. So when you pray today, ask God what his best for your life is. Ask him to help retrain the way you think about his best for you. Ask him to grow your faith and trust in him as you follow after what he has for you.