Wondering what good gift to give that special someone for a birthday, anniversary, or Pi Day (3-14)? The possibilities seem endless… and sometimes, so does the angst over finding just the right gift.
Jesus indicates that like our earthly fathers, God longs to gift us what is good in response to the asking, seeking, and knocking of prayer. “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more with the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11.11-13)
In the face of such a grand promise, what are we to do when we experience the opposite? What do we do when we receive a serpent instead of a fish and a scorpion instead of an egg? When a friend's spouse files for divorce while he's fought for his marriage? Isn't the "good" thing for the marriage to be restored? Another watches helplessly as the paramedics attempt to resuscitate her lifeless child. She had prayed for his life. Wouldn't the "good" thing have been for her child to live?
All of us have experienced the pain of unanswered prayer—experiences in which prayers for God's protection, God's healing, or God's intervention has gone unanswered. Most of us have experienced the force of the answer "no" as we have pleaded and prayed for God to say "yes" to our appeal, to answer the negative aspect of whatever situation we are facing with a positive outcome.
Given our experience with unanswered prayer, what is the "good gift" promised by Jesus that the Father longs to give to his children? Matthew 7 and Luke 11 present parallel teachings on this promise of prayer except that what Matthew implies, Luke makes explicit. In Matthew's account Jesus tells His disciples that “your Father who is in heaven (will) give good things to those who ask Him!" In Luke's account, Jesus defines what is good and tells us that God will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.
How are we to understand the Holy Spirit as God’s abundant answer (gift) to our prayers—even those prayers that seemingly go unanswered? Well, what God promises to us through the answer of the Holy Spirit is His presence with us in and through all the circumstances of life. The Bible speaks of the Holy Spirit as the Comforter, the one who comes alongside of us. The promise of God's presence with us sustains us even when God says "no" to specific requests. The Holy Spirit is our reassurance in the face of unanswered prayers that God indeed listens to us, hears our concerns, and gifts us with His abundant presence.
This "good gift" (the Holy Spirit) hovered over the chaotic waters and created the world filled with beauty and blessing. This same "good gift" raised Jesus Christ from the dead and raises us to newness of life. The gift of the Holy Spirit is the depository of hope that we too can rise from the ashes of the most crushing events and circumstances. In the face of unanswered prayers, God longs to give to each one of us the supernatural power that comes from the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, today and in lives right now!
God does not always answer our prayers the way we would want Him to. Sometimes, we feel we are being given a scorpion instead of an egg or a serpent instead of a fish. Perhaps as we wrestle with unanswered prayers for healing, for help, and for deliverance, God's grand promise to send the Holy Spirit is the only answer we could hope for: the good gift of God's abiding presence, the power to live a resurrected life, and the promise of God's creative work to make something beautiful from the uncertainties of our lives.
~ Pastor Mullinax