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Childlike prayer (II)

God will give us a fish if we pray for a snake, because God always gives good things to God’s children.

As a child of our Father in heaven, I take God at God’s Word. “. . . Everything – whatever you pray for and ask – if you all trust that you have received it, it will be yours” (Mark 11:24, Isa. 65:24).

I pray that our children come to live willingly out of the grace of Jesus Christ so that even our grandchildren will flourish in the faith (Ps. 128:5-6).
I pray that a tsunami of tried-and-true seasoned just-doing sweep through the nations of the world so that Jesus Christ’s lordship be cheered by all peoples (Amos 5:24, Rev.11:15).

I pray that the lonely and misfits of society be given partners or friends, disingenuous love and self-respect, so that neighborhoods helping one another become a blessed reality (cf. Zech. 8:1-8).

I pray that I will never die, as Jesus promised (John 11:17-26).

Insofar as I am even a sour grape in God’s vineyard, as I, so help me God, belong to Jesus Christ, I know these prayers will surely be answered. “If you remain in me, and if my words remain in you, ask for what you all wish and it will be given to you” (John 15:7).

“Now wait a minute,” says the adult in me.

“You mean your children estranged from the Church will remember their baptism after you die and turn themselves into observant believers?    

“Are you a sunny-side-up premillenarium leaning toward theocracies?

“You think everybody can have a blissful marriage or lifelong friendship, and that racism and abuse of the handicapped will pass away like letter-writing?

“And what do you mean you will never die – at 87 years, you’re already short of breath on the subway stairs!”

These adult quibbles ruin trusting childlike prayer.

I can’t ensure my grandchildren will confess Jesus Christ, but I can let them know I’ve put a bug in God’s ear about them (cf. John 4:35-38).

Maybe my enthusiastic monied support with prayer for Citizens for Public Justice in Ottawa and the Center for Public Justice in Washington, D.C. expects extravagant fruit on their modest labours, but the Holy Spirit will sort it out, to the consternation of Satan (Rom. 8:26, Luke 10:17-20).

And as a child of God I know the Lord God is not a Santa Claus, and sometimes keeps a person as sadly lonesome as a thorn in the flesh, in order to work, as with the apostle Paul, marvelous testimonies of Jesus Christ in distant lands (II Cor. 12:7-9).

I have told my children, when the Lord takes back my life-breath, tell any curious  people, I am not dead, I am truly just sleeping (I Cor. 5:20,51; II Cor. 4:16-5:5) . . . and singing new Genevan psalms with the saints near God and Christ’s throne getting ready to come back for Happy Hour (Rev. 14:1-4, I Thess. 4:13-18).

The Nicodemus adult thinks prayer is a good work which if done properly is rewarded; of course, prayer is never a carte blanche because the catch always is: God’s will trumps our prayerful wishes.

More than we ask for
But born-again children see it differently: God’s over-riding will in dealing with our petitions is not an undercutting hindrance, but is a protective safe-guard! We grown-up children “do not know how to pray as we ought,” says Scripture, so thank God! the Holy Spirit oversees and translates our prayers with groans that go beyond words, to make our heartfelt prayers right before the holy God (Rom. 8:26-27; I John 3:18-22, 5:14-15). I might pray that old U.S. President Trump have a heart attack, but God says, “Sorry,” because Pence could be an even worse administrator of justice toward the sick and poor, immigrants and refugees seeking asylum. . . .

God will give us a fish if we pray for a snake, because God always gives good things to God’s children, including the Holy Spirit! (Matt. 7:7-11, Luke 11:11-13). We can trust that the Lord will always answer childlike prayer with more than we ask for, because Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid, you little flock [of children], because your Father is very pleased to give you the kingdom [of God]” (Luke 12:32).  


  • Calvin Seerveld is Professor Emeritus in Philosophical Aesthetics at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto, and the author of several influential books, including Biblical Studies & Wisdom for Living.

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