One of my favorite stories about my boys taught me a very valuable and funny lesson. It seems that God uses humor quite frequently in my life to teach and to train me. I used not to find His tactics very humorous, but I have since discovered that laughter truly is a good medicine.
The lesson, not so humorous at first, started when our oldest son Jacob was about three or four. He decided that he needed a baby brother.
Now, I have my own ideas as to where he first got this idea – like from his grandmother. Whatever the case, Jacob was so determined to have a baby brother that he prayed diligently every single night for this baby for well over a year. He picked out a name for his brother from his two older teen heroes, his Uncle Matt and his babysitter’s son Chris.
Jacob even prayed for his brother by that chosen name, “Father God, please give me a baby brother named Chris Matt.”
And every single night I said the same thing after he uttered that innocent prayer: “Jacob, you can tell your grandmother that God is not giving you a baby brother.”
I was wrong, totally wrong. God did give us a baby boy. But at least I talked Jacob into naming him Christopher Matthew instead of just plain Chris Matt.
Our Christopher was born on a Saturday morning in May, so the next Sunday we proudly carried him to church. He was only eight days old. I had to get back quickly because I was the only piano player for our small church in Tampa, Florida.
As we hauled the baby and all of his equipment from our car, one of the church elders came outside to give us a hand. He grabbed Jacob up in his arms and began to carry the five-year-old into the building.
In an effort to simply make conversation, the elder asked Jacob, “So, what do you think about your new baby brother?”
Without hesitation, Jacob said, “I think you better be careful what you pray for because you might get it.”
It only took him eight days to figure out that babies aren’t all they are cracked up to be.
They look pretty, they sometimes smell pretty, and they eventually grow into great hunting and fishing buddies. The problem is that babies are a big responsibility for everyone involved in their care and upbringing – even big brothers.
Lots of things in life are that way, including the very things we are earnestly praying for right this moment. With every gift and every answered prayer comes the attached responsibility of that gift. Nothing in life is free.
Yes, I realize some things are freely given, such as the gift of life and the gift of salvation. The catch is that we assume the responsibility of using those freely-given gifts to the best of our abilities. Every moment of life is ours to squander recklessly or use wisely, and the gift of salvation is to be shared with those around us. After all, God gave us each of those gifts freely, but they were bought with a very high price – the life of His Son.
So, yes, God is generous. That’s for sure! He gives us everything we need as well as often giving us the desires of our heart. The real task for us is making sure that the desires of our heart line up with His Word and His desires.
Take the children of Israel for example. At one point in history, the prophet Samuel grew old and his days of leadership were numbered. The Israelites wanted God to give them a king as Samuel’s replacement. God heard their pleas, and He granted their request, knowing full well it would be their demise.
In 1 Samuel 8, God wanted Samuel to understand it was not the prophet that the people were rejecting, but God alone. And God reminded Samuel of all that He had done for them by leading them out of Egypt and out of bondage, and still, the people chose to forsake God.
Through the voice of Samuel, God warned the people point blank all that a king would take from them to use for his earthly kingdom – their sons and daughters, their land, their flocks, and ultimately their freedom.
The Israelites selfishly refused to listen and heed God’s words of truth. They still wanted what they wanted.
So, the Lord told Samuel, “Listen to them and give them a king.”
Life was great for a while; King Saul seemed like the perfect answer to their perfect prayers. We know the rest of the story though. We can read all throughout the Old Testament how many, if not most, of the kings of Israel wrought havoc and heartache on their people, beginning with Saul.
If only they had trusted God directly to meet their needs. Think of the difference that one request to God made in the history of Israel.
And think of the difference our own selfish, prideful prayers could make in our lives and the lives of our families – and even our nation.
So beware. Prayer is powerful. Seek His ways and His guidance, even in prayer. In our flesh, we often pray for things God knows we really would not want if we could see and know what He knows.
Remember, He only alone knows the end from the beginning. We simply have to trust Him to give to us what is best for us.
And sometimes the best thing for us is not an earthly king. Sometimes it is a baby brother named Chris Matt. So, as a wise kindergartner named Jacob once said, “Be careful what you pray for; you just might get it.”