Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Jesus knew how to give a vivid illustration. This is one of those Scripture passages that goes deeper and deeper the more you think about it. First, he assures us that God, our Father, wants to give good gifts to us when we ask him. That may sound obvious, but how many of us truly believe that deep down? Don’t many of us think that God is more interested in giving us what we deserve?
Second, Jesus tells us that our Father will not give us something bad if we ask for something good. God will never try to trick you. What father, when his daughter comes to him for her dinner, would throw a snake at her? That might be something a bad brother would do, but not a good father!
The third assurance is not one Jesus directly states; it’s a logical inference. He has said that if you ask for a fish, your Father will not give you a snake. But what if you ask for a snake? What if you, being a little child, don’t know that snakes bite, and you think they are pretty, so you ask your father for one. Would a good father give his child a snake that will bite her? No, he won’t.
We ask God for a lot of things that he knows will harm our souls. Sometimes we ask for things that will make us feel good, but will keep us from experiencing some better gift that God has for us. We may be asking for something that he is not yet ready to give us. And so he says no to our request. What a good and loving Father we have! He does not mechanically answer our prayers, but instead he responds to them with wisdom, love, and kindness to fulfill all of his purposes for and in us.
Suggestions for Prayer
- Ask God to help you believe that he wants to give you good gifts.
- Thank God for a time when he withheld from you something that, in hindsight, you can see would have been harmful to you.
- Ask God to help you trust him when he withholds something you’ve prayed for.
Betsy Childs Howard is an editor for the Gospel Coalition. She previously worked at Beeson Divinity School and Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. In addition to being a regular contributor to the Gospel Coalition website and First Things, she is the author of Seasons of Waiting: Walking by Faith When Dreams Are Delayed.