Esther 9:12, 14-16, 23-25
Because Esther asked, she received. That seems simple enough.
But yesterday I read in 1 John 5: 14-15:
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”
I also think about John 15: 7:
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”
Conveniently, the other reading for today, Matthew 7:7-12 talks about asking and receiving. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be open to you.”
Putting all of this together, I think prayer isn’t as simple as asking for something and getting it. Prayer is about aligning our lives with God’s will—”remain in me and my words remain in you”; it is as much a shaping tool for us, as it is a mechanism through which we make our requests known to God. The key for me is to make God’s word so much a part of myself that I think about it constantly and meditate on it constantly, so that it impacts every aspect of my being. I think Esther got what she requested from King Xerxes because her request was within God’s will—she asked “according to God’s will.” She had become so shaped and so molded by God that she desired the desire of God’s heart: to save the Jews. She asked it of [Them], not of herself. Isn’t that the point of Lent? Isn’t the point to so focus on our spiritual lives that we align our wills with the will of God? So that are no longer asking things of ourselves but “according to God’s will”?
The rest of the reading for Matthew seems to bolster this idea that what we ask for we get, but it seems to hinge as well on what we give. Would you give your son a stone to eat? Would you give him a snake? Even though we are corrupt, Matthew says evil, we know what is best for our children, not a snake or a stone, so Matthew writes: “how much more will your father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?” Finally, Matthew says to do unto others what we would have them do unto us, “this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Again, I am caused to think about the cyclic nature of grace. What we do determines much of what is done with, for, and to us. (I aslo realize this sounds a bit likes “works theology”. In no way do I think that our salvation comes from our works, but I do believe that our works should prove our salvation.) The law and the prophets are summed up by our alignment with God’s will: do unto others what we would have [Them] do unto us? Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Ask “according to God’s will.” Jesus himself prays: “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We can ask, but ultimately we receive God’s will. The task for me is to move my requests closer to God’s will. To ask for what God wants me to have. And then, to be willing to accept it and follow through.