Esther C: 12, 14-16, 23-25
Then Queen Esther, seized with deadly anxiety, fled to the Lord. She prayed to the Lord God of Israel, and said: “O my Lord, you only are our king; help me, who am alone and have no helper but you, for my danger is in my hand. Ever since I was born I have heard in the tribe of my family that you, O Lord, took Israel out of all the nations, and our ancestors from among all their forebears, for an everlasting inheritance, and that you did for them all that you promised. Remember, O Lord; make yourself known in this time of our affliction, and give me courage, O King of the gods and Master of all dominion! Put eloquent speech in my mouth before the lion, and turn his heart to hate the man who is fighting against us, so that there may be an end of him and those who agree with him. But save us by your hand, and help me, who am alone and have no helper but you, O Lord.
Psalm 138:1-3, 7-8
I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness;
for you have exalted your name and your word
On the day I called, you answered me,
you increased my strength of soul.
you stretch out your hand,
and your right hand delivers me.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.
“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. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.”
Today’s scriptures feel agonizingly simplistic. Jesus tells us to ask, and we will receive. This can be a frustrating word when we ask and we do not seem to get an answer, much less receive what we were asking for. Those instances make us question ourselves and how we are praying. Maybe we have not prayed hard enough? Maybe we have not asked with just the right words? Those instances can lead us into deep places of doubt where we question God and what he is hearing. Is he even hearing our prayers? Does he not care about what we are going through? He told us himself to ask and we will receive. Why does it still seem so mysterious how to get an answer out of him when we really need one?
In the midst of a great trial, it can be difficult to feel the presence of the Lord, or to comprehend how he is answering our prayers. We can be tempted in times of distress to turn to God like a vending machine of favors and cash in our asking in hopes of changing the outcome of what we are going through. Without always realizing it, we can even try to manipulate God with our distress: “If he really loved me, how could he let me go through this situation?”
But the Lord told us to ask, not to demand. And God’s goodness is always a gift, not a right. Our good and gracious heavenly Father can only give good gifts to his children. We can ask God for a lot of things, but if it does not benefit us for salvation, then God desires to give us something better. What we must ask for is not that God give us all the things we desire, but rather that God give us the desire for the things he wants for us.
Jesus told us to ask and we will receive. Let us ask him today to give us the desires of our hearts. Let us ask him to change our hearts to only desire the things he wants for us. Let us ask him what we are to ask. May God in his goodness bless us with insight so we may better follow the plan he has made for each of us. Amen.