Are you sometimes afraid to ask for things from others? I am; even at 44 years old. When I was younger, I was even more hesitant to ask people for things. Maybe some of you can relate to this. From asking a friendly guy or girl to dance in high school to asking your boss for a raise; asking for things can definitely make us anxious. Why is that? Perhaps it is because, in order to ask for something, we have to make ourselves vulnerable. We show that we lack something. We set ourselves up for rejection if what we’re asking for is not granted. “Maybe she doesn’t like me as I like her,” or “maybe the boss doesn’t think I do as good a job as I think I do.”
Some of the most challenging and growth-filled experiences in my life have come when I was forced to risk rejection, put myself out there and ask for things. One example was a college class where our final assignment was to go out on the busy streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts and try to sign people up for the non-profit initiative we had worked on during the year. I dreaded bothering people, but even more, I feared that my values and hard work would be rejected by people. Soon, however, I not only saw the risk of rejection but also the satisfaction when a stranger welcomed and supported the cause. A few years later, as a hospital chaplain, my dread returned whenever I was on-call in the pediatric ward, which required going door to door to offer help. For me, the hardest part of the job was not being called to accompany people in often tragic times in their lives; it was calling on people, unsolicited, to offer my presence to them.
Asking for things is especially difficult for some people, but I don’t think it is easy for anyone. Even the seasoned, salesperson who spends 10 hours a day on the phone asking for things and being rejected, even they are afraid to ask for some things. You see, it is relatively easy to ask people for unimportant things; i.e. “Would you like to purchase these state of the art solar panels?” But asking for important things, in which your very self is invested; this is hard; i.e. “Would you like to spend some time with me?” The more of us that is put on the line in asking for something, the harder it is to ask.
Maybe this is the same reason why we often have trouble properly asking things of God. Like anyone else in our lives—also with God—it is easier to ask for things that don’t have too much of us in it. “God, please help me with this test or this work presentation.” These are fine things to ask form God, but they don’t risk much, and therefore offer less reward. Time and again, however, Jesus challenges us to not be afraid to risk more of ourselves in what we ask from God.
“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Lk 11:9-10)
Asking things of God is not a sales call; “God I’ll go to church more if you’ll secure this job for me…Great, thanks!” Asking things of God is a whole-self and whole-life venture. That’s why Jesus says search, seek and knock at the door. This isn’t a three-minute ask, but one that spans a lifetime. Asking things of God also risks the whole self, because God made you and I. God knows all of our thoughts in secret and knows even the number of hairs on our heads. God literally sees through us, so it is no wonder that we can feel very vulnerable in seeking Him. But the risk of learning to be open and vulnerable before God is a risk worth taking if we trust that God deeply loves us and that our best self is only possible in Him.
This season of the cross, when the earth-shattering love of our Lord is so demonstrably before us, let us ask for and seek, that for which we were made. Let us never be afraid to confess our needs before the God who made us, and ask him daily about his good intentions for us. For as we know, If You Don’t Ask, the Answer is No. If we do ask, the answer is given by Jesus; “For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened,” now and always; amen.