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to ask or not to ask

I still consider myself somewhat of a newbie when it comes to development work. Although I've always been drawn to work that could be labeled as "development", I've never officially had the role of working on a development team until recently. So when I had the opportunity to go to my first ever development-themed conference, you might say I was enthralled. I took copious notes and pretty much ate up everything I was hearing.

At one particular seminar, the speaker asked this question: "What is the number one reason people give?" A handful of suggestions were thrown out but even among many people with lots more experience than me, I don't think anyone gave the answer the speaker was looking for.

What is the #1 reason people give? Because someone asked them to give.

Asking. Raise your hand if you enjoy asking for things. Raise your hand if you do it a lot. Or how about if you think you do it too much. Raise your hand if you worry about it a lot. I'm not sure I necessarily always enjoy asking for things, but I do feel like I do it a lot. And I worry about it a lot too.

When I think about asking in the context of the Bible, one of the verses that comes to mind first is from the book of James... "You do not have because you do not ask God." Jesus also talked about asking, like when He said "Ask and you will receive" (John 16:24) or "if you ask Me for anything in My name, I will do it" (John 14:14). It seems like asking is generally a part of the Christian life that is encouraged.

I'm realizing though, that there are some distinct differences between asking a fellow human being for something and asking God for something. In the case of human-to-human relationships, it makes total sense to me that it's important to ask. Unlike God, most people don't intuitively know what another person needs. Whether you're the person in need or the person trying to help someone in need, neither of you can know for sure what the other

person is thinking unless you communicate. You have to ask.

In his book "The Making of an Ordinary Saint", Nathan Foster points out that "our failure to let others serve us is actually depriving them of growth, of a gift. Feeling like we have to be strong, like we can't let others serve us, is actually selfish weakness. Jesus let people wash his feet and pour oil on Him. Jesus asked for help."

Do we sometimes hesitate to ask because we think we shouldn't need help? Maybe we think we should be able to do things on our own. We don't want to be a burden.

While it can be unselfish of us to not want to burden someone else, what if there is more to it? What if asking is a way of inviting people into our lives in a deeper or more meaningful way? What if sometimes there is not really any other way for us to experience love and care from other people except to ask for their help in some way? I wonder...

For better or worse, I have come to adopt the motto, "it can't hurt to ask." I recognize asking can be a sticky business. And there is a good chance there may be times when it could indeed hurt a little to ask. But so far (knock on wood), I have found people to be pretty open when it comes to being asked. I suppose as I ask, I have to accept the risk that the answer might be "no". (Honestly maybe that is where the potential hurt may come into play.)

But really, let's say I need help moving a heavy piece of furniture upstairs. If I am not willing to ask for help, how else is the furniture going to make it upstairs? And if I ask someone and that person can't help, neither I nor the other person need to get upset at each other. I just graciously say thanks anyway and move on to someone else.

So, this is all well and good when it comes to people asking people, but what about asking God? How is that supposed to work? Why is it that God wants us to ask Him for things when He clearly knows exactly what we need? In the case of asking God, it couldn't possibly be because we're somehow cluing God into what's going on in our lives.

Hey God, just so You know, I lost my keys and I really need them if I'm going to be able to make it to work. Imagine God saying, What?! I had no idea, that is truly shocking! It's a good thing you told Me or I would have never known what you needed. Doubtful.

In reality, perhaps God knows that what I need even more than finding my keys is to grow in patience and trust. Or who knows what else. But then again, why would He tell me to ask? How in the world do I even know what I should ask for?

James 4:3 says, "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures". Could it be that part of why God wants us to ask Him for things is because it's a way of helping us to learn more about ourselves? To reveal to us what our own motives truly are?

If I don't ask, I might not receive. But I might also simply remain unaware of my deepest longings. There is a story in the book of Mark in which Jesus says to the blind man He is about to heal, "what do you want Me to do for you?" When it comes to asking, if I am truly honest about what I want or need, maybe God wants me to ask so that He can reveal to me what is actually going on in my heart. Maybe asking is what opens the door for Him to either meet my needs or open my eyes to a way in which I need to grow.

Not asking might end up keeping me from growing. I often tend to hold back from asking God for things because I have a feeling my motives are wrong. I shouldn't ask God for peace because He already provided it. I probably shouldn't ask God for more joy because that might mean I am not really experiencing His presence the way I ought to be.

But what if the path to overcoming my wrong motives is through the act of asking?

The thing about asking is that most times, to ask is to humble myself. And maybe that is the point. For me to come to God just as I am and ask for what I think I need, while at the same time asking that He would grow me and reveal to me how I may need to change what I'm asking. Jesus said in John 15, "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you."

What do you want to ask God for today? Do you need peace? Do you long for rest? What is keeping you from asking? May we grow to be people who are honest about our wants and needs and unafraid to bring them before our heavenly Father, trusting that He always, always welcomes them.

Pray with me...

... Father, we ask for You to increase our faith, as students, teachers, and everyone in the BCS/WCA community.

If you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. Matthew 21:21-22

... Jesus, we ask that You would make us more willing to ask for help when we need it.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. Roman2 13:8

... Holy Spirit, we ask that You would strengthen and encourage our entire school communities to keep going step by step during these final weeks of the school year.

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

Soli Deo Gloria To God alone be the glory

~ Carrie Warner, BCS/WCA Prayer Team Coordinator

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog and pray for BCS/WCA. My plan is to publish weekly on Wednesdays, Lord willing. Feel free to subscribe (at the bottom of this page) if you’d like to be notified each time a new blog post has been published.

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