When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. – James 4:3
Last week my son and grandsons were visiting us at the family summer house near Lake Michigan. We really wanted to get all the cousins together, even if just for an afternoon, but our daughter Joanna and her family and friends were vacationing on the other side of the state, close to where two of the girls were at camp.
My resourceful husband found a “waterfall” in a location we could all get to in a few hours, and we made plans to meet up there for a day of fun and frolic in the falls and the natural pools.
The five of us got there shortly after the seven of them did, and we gathered for a picnic lunch. After everyone had eaten, Joanna and I lingered at the table, catching up on one another’s lives, while the kids ran off to play in the water.
It wasn’t long before our visit was interrupted by a very unhappy child. Joanna’s oldest was near hysteria, because she had given her “special bracelet” to her dad for safekeeping, and he had accidentally dropped it somewhere in the water. The inconsolable daughter was sobbing, “I wanna go home!” Of course, Joanna tried to explain that the seven of them were not going to turn around and take the long drive back after less than an hour there, even if “going home” could solve the problem, which of course it couldn’t.
This girl’s distress may seem a bit out of proportion, especially if I were to tell you her age, but this is the same child who as a toddler would be apoplectic if two different foods on her plate were touching one another. (Yes, she has “issues,” and yes, she’s being treated.)
Meanwhile, I hated to see her so unhappy, and I confess I also didn’t want her distress to ruin everyone else’s fun.
Looking out over the falls and multiple pools, I decided to exercise my faith and ask the Lord to help me find the bracelet. The very next thought was that it would increase my granddaughter’s faith if I told her I was praying and then found it! But another part of me wanted to wait until after I had found the treasure … just in case I didn’t.
But if I had faith and asked God for help, why wouldn’t I find it?
Many of you know that one of my books is entitled BARRIERS (So if prayers are so powerful, how come mine don’t get answered?) That book is the result of my spending two years going through the Bible, Genesis to Revelation, gleaning every verse I could find about why some of our prayers don’t get answered the way we want them to. (Truth is, every prayer gets answered, we just don’t like it when the answer is “No,” or “Wait.”) The results of my research were a list of fourteen “barriers” to effective prayer, which I have since used as a sort of checklist when I’m asking for something specific.
That day it didn’t take long for me to pinpoint what was likely to be the flaw in my prayer. The Still, Small Voice whispered, Why do you ask?
Of course. One of my reasons for wanting the bracelet found was to make my granddaughter’s day happier – and everyone else’s. I did want her faith to grow, but not enough to risk telling her ahead of time that I was praying. Another motivation, I admit, was to spare her mother (and me) a lot of whining and putting a damper on our day.
But probably the most selfish motive of all that was lurking in the darker corners of my heart was the desire to be the Hero. Sure, I wanted the treasure found, but I mostly wanted it found by (drumroll…) ❤ “NANA!“<3
I sighed and reworded my prayer, while still looking into the water, which was clear, but only where it wasn’t being stirred up by multiple swimmers, especially children with their “floaties” and goggles.
Of course! There was a team of searchers already at our disposal, just waiting for something specific to look for to turn their random paddling into a treasure hunt!
A trio of boys with goggles were diving enthusiastically down to the rocks and back. They were about the age of my granddaughter and looked very approachable, probably because they were the age of kids I used to teach and love.
“Hey, guys,” I said in my teacher voice, and they respectfully gave me their attention. “There’s a red and white bracelet missing somewhere in the water, and someone is very upset that it’s missing! And oh,” I added, “if you find it, there’s a reward.”
Off they swam, and not five minutes later they approached us, holding up the bracelet in triumph.
I was thrilled. At the same time I couldn’t believe this beat-up string of plastic beads was what my granddaughter had been so hysterical about losing. Still, a promise was a promise. I hadn’t specified what the “reward” was, but I figured cash was the surest prize guaranteed to please, and a five was all I had. I gave it to the boys with high fives all around for their work. They seemed happy to get their reward, but even more, getting to be the heroes of the day.
Joanna was surprised and wondered how in the world it had been found. I was happy to give credit to three young men who took the challenge and came through in record time.
Prayer: Father, forgive us for the times we pray to You with wrong motives. We know You want us to be mature and complete more than you want us to have “stuff,” fame, or thanks. Keep molding us and purifying our prayers until we seek Your will and Your glory always, in Jesus’ name. Amen.