The Bible give us unequivocal promises that God will give us what we ask for - if we ask! "Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you." (Matt. 7:7 NIV) "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God… and it will be given to him." (James 1:5)
If that's all true then I really want to know - What is "asking"?! We have all had the experience of asking God for something and not receiving it.
Over and over again the Bible counsels us to not simply communicate with God with words, but with our whole hearts. Asking, it turns out, has very little to do with words – a request that we may present to God – and everything to do with our lives – what we all to grow in our hearts.
An interesting experiment is to ask ourselves, "If I could only communicate my desires to God with my life – no words, what would my life right now be asking for?" The answer to this question will give us a good sense of what we are currently asking God for. This is real "asking". A way to put it is that the language in which God hears is not so much words, as our lives. Our days, weeks and months, are the sentences we are speaking to God. What are they asking for? Are we asking God, Divine Love for things that She is likely to think are best for us?
In her chapter on prayer in Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy speaks at length about desire. Desire implies a longing for something we don't have. And, bringing God into the picture, desire also implies a petition to God to fulfill that desire. "Your Father knows what you need before you ask him." (Matt 6:8 NIV) There is no way to demonstrate our completeness without feeling a great longing to do so! Deep desire is absolutely necessary for healing, progress and the practice of Christianity. Eddy says, "In the quiet sanctuary of earnest longings, we must deny sin and plead God's allness…Such prayer is answered, in so far as we put our desires into practice." (S+H pg 15)
What are these longings? Where do they come from? The deep desires, the longing we feel in our hearts – we did not make up ourselves. Those desires are inklings toward God. When we pray we discover those desires in our hearts like gifts under the Christmas tree.
So in essence, there must be no disconnect between our "earnest longings" and our actions! A life lived this way, keeping our outward actions in harmony with our innermost longings, is constantly reaching out to God with the heart, wordlessly asking for the heart's desire. And the Bible promises us that these petitions of the heart and life, are supplied.
It is a great, challenging adventure to strive to have the outward life reflect the deep inner longings. Why? First of all because we must learn to be silent and humble in order to hear and truly feel how God is guiding us with our desires; secondly, as we listen more and more closely, we find that our inner longings are spiritual and very often bid us to leave well trodden, familiar paths. Instead, they call us to explore new territories and ideas, and to serve. Following the desires God has put in our hearts forces us to grow, learn, expand. It put us in situations where we must overcome fear, pride, and other vices. But there is no replacing the joy and satisfaction that comes from living a life that is guided by our deep, individual, God-given desires.
When I was about 10 years into my career as a muralist I began to feel that it was time for something new in my career. For all those years my heart at sung as I painted murals. To feel that it was no longer what I should be doing was surprising and a little disorienting. I began to pray. For a time I pondered entering the military to be work as a chaplain. But as months went on, I felt that was not the right idea. My great desire was to serve, to use my skills, my individuality and spiritual conviction. I longed to be engaged with others in a way I could feel deeply. This desire drove me to search and think and feel about my purpose for being alive.
Then, about a year after I began praying about it, I received an answer in prayer: "Dedicate the first 4 hours of every day to nothing but being creative." It was an interesting command, and one that was a little scary. I didn’t know where this would lead, or how it would progress things. Being a painter, I assumed God was moving me to make some new paintings. But, when I began this discipline of making time for creativity, being obedient, instead of paintings, what came out were songs.
In a few months I had created a whole new body of spiritual music, the likes of which I had never written before. In the following years, things opened up naturally. Very soon I was making my living full time as a musician, performing in churches, and making the most of countless opportunities to serve others in new ways and compelling ways. It was a great rebirth, all brought about by the natural asking of the heart's earnest longings. It was not a career change I sought out, but rather, one that I discovered, occurring in the heart.
During that time I saw that my days of work, listening, and exploring the way to make that transition were prayers. Just by living out my longing I was asking God for help. And it was being given step by step. For much of the time I didn’t know where it was going – only that this new work was compelling to me, and made my heart sing with gratitude and long to grow into it more fully.
In short, the "asking" that matters, is a function of the heart in which we humbly allow God to tell us what we most want, and then live in such a way as to see those desires be fulfilled. This kind of asking leaves no need for words.