“You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” ~Jesus, Luke 11:11-13
The Father-child relationship between God and his people is one of the most wonderful things we find in the Bible. It should cause us to stand in awe that the God who created everything would invite us to be part of his family and remove every barrier that would otherwise prevent us, if only we turn to Jesus, the true Son of God.
In Luke 11, Jesus uses this relationship to help explain to us prayer. Prayer is the primary act in which we talk to God. The Bible says so much about prayer that we know that God intends prayer to be more than a religious duty. Rather, he delights in and wants us to delight in this relationship-growing conversation.
Jesus illustrated prayer with a daily reality of our lives. He pointed at human fathers and said: If you, fallen as you are, can give good things to your children, how much better are the things the perfect Father gives? Yes, there are some bad fathers out there—abusive fathers and absentee fathers. But, for the most part, fathers desire to care for their children and seek to do good for their sons and daughters.
So if your son were to ask for a fish or your daughter for an egg, you would not respond by giving them something that would hurt them instead. This reality teaches us a few things about prayer to the perfect Father:
First, he will only give us what is good for us. James wrote that every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of lights (James 1:17). Paul wrote that God takes the evil things that happen in the world and turns them ultimately for the good of his people (Romans 8:28). Even when we feel the momentary pain of the Father’s discipline, it is for our good.
Second, when we ask for something that is bad, the Father will give us according to what is good. This is more implied than explicit in the text. But what would happen if your son or daughter asked you for a venomous scorpion or poisonous snake? You would say no. Even if they begged and pleaded for it, you would still say no, because you know it would hurt them. This is why God doesn’t always answer our prayers by giving us exactly what we asked for. Sometimes instead of an egg, or fish, or bread, we’re asking for something that will hurt us. Sometimes we even think what we’re asking for will be good for us, but the God who knows all things past and present with perfection knows whether something will work for our good or bad. So, God will tell us no when we need to hear no, and he will tell us wait when we need to hear wait.
Third, the best thing God could give us is himself. The Bible teaches us that God is the greatest good, indeed he is the ultimate definer of what is good. The greatest good, then, and the greatest treasure we could have is God himself. And that is exactly what God offers us. God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—the three persons of the one God, work together to bring us good. God the Father showed us his love by sending God the Son who willingly died in our place for our sins. God the Son then promised to pour out on his people God the Holy Spirit.
The Trinity working for us and in us, all for his glory. And Jesus said that God will give his Holy Spirit to those who ask. The Bible tells us that when we come to faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit indwells us, changes us, gives us new life and new passions, and leads us to honor God in what we do. All of this, a gift of grace and love from the Father who longs to do good for his children.
So turn to Jesus, go to God often in prayer, and ask him for all the good that he wishes to show us.
This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.