The word to ask in this passage is Sha’al, a word with multiple meanings, including inquire, request, demand, beg, borrow, lay to charge, consult, desire earnestly, obtain leave, lend, pray. In this passage there are four emphases of this word. Each gives a picture of the purpose of God for our asking.
Like a daughter with her daddy. I have two delightful daughters, both grown with children of their own. When they were small, they learned at an early age how to get from their dad whatever they wanted (within reason). They smiled, asked “daddy” for something, and hoped for a positive response. My heart, easy as it was, wanted to give what they wanted, as long as it was in their best interest. They asked knowing my heart was already inclined towards them. It was my joy to give.
- A demand for something we have a right to. David cried out in Psalm 4: 1, “Answer me when I call, O God of My righteousness (right).” There are times
when we must go beyond just asking for “a sure thing”, and ask with passion and conviction. David recognized that there were promises the Lord had made to him, and he had a right to see the relief and grace of God. In similar fashion, we need to ask of the Lord for the promises he has made to us. The promises include salvation being brought to the nations of the world through evangelistic outreach; salvation for our loved ones, help for our neighbors, provision for our daily lives. Asking for what God has promised will indeed bring about the results of answered prayer; in the Lord’s time.
- Asking for wisdom and strategy. Not everything important to the Lord happens over night. In fact, the Lord is patient, and has waited for generations to see His Kingdom come in fullness. Often we need to ask, especially when a solution is not readily at hand, for the specific strategy, and the wisdom to know how to bring about an answer from the Lord. In every nation, the strategy for winning the lost and discipling them to maturity is going to be different. Our prayer must be to hear the voice of God, and develop necessary strategy as the task the Lord has given us is vital.
- Weep and cry for something due to the injustice and the need. In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus tells the story of an unrighteous Judge and a widow with a just cause. The picture presented is about persistence. There are some things that are worth praying for and praying for and praying for (and acting on) until the only acceptable answer comes.
I am reminded of the great crusader William Wilberforce (24 August 1759 – 29 July 1833), the British politician, philanthropist, and abolitionist, who led the parliamentary campaign against the slave trade. He relentlessly fought for the abolition of slavery, seeing it finally made illegal after 20 years of fighting. It was a just cause, worth giving all he had to. There are some things that require significant feet to our prayers. Issues for some, like abortion on demand, infanticide in general, female genital mutilation, poverty, continued racism, etc., are worth fighting for or against, according to the convictions of heart. These ethical issues, and many others, are worth praying and fighting for until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24)