One of the most cherished memories of my childhood is a time my parents piled us four kids into the car for what they said was a surprise. After a journey of a little less than an hour, we were indeed thrilled to show up at Disneyland. Best surprise ever!
A couple of years later, my folks once again piled us into the car with the promise of a surprise. For all four of us, excitement was at a fever pitch.
You cannot begin to imagine our disappointment at being taken to a clinic for inoculations.
You often don’t get what you expect. For example, there’s a song by The Beatles, “A Day in the Life.” It contains two huge crescendos, and after the second one comes the wham! of a piano chord that slowly ebbs away. Well, my younger sister and I shared a room that had a radio alarm clock with the latest gizmo: a sleep function. You could set the radio to play for a certain amount of time without having to bother getting up to turn it off. And one night when we were in bed half asleep, “A Day in the Life” was broadcast. It played up to the end of the second crescendo, but instead of the piano chord every fiber of my being was expecting next, we heard the tiniest, almost imperceptible click! as the sleep function turned off the music.
We both sat up in bed shrieking. The failure of that chord to sound made it seem as if time had stopped. But there was nothing we could do about it. That “other shoe” was never going to drop.
We have great expectations of God too. Five times the Bible assures us that what we ask of God in faith, we will receive (Matthew 7:8, 21:22, Mark 11:24, Luke 11:10, John 16:24, 1 John 3:22).
It sure doesn’t seem that way sometimes. St. James tells us if we don’t receive it’s because we ask wrongly to spend on our passions (James 4:3). But what if your prayer truly is unselfish? What if you don’t receive what you ask for then?
In Luke, just before Christ’s assurance that we will receive, He tells us to be persistent in asking (Luke 11:5-8). I have to tell you this can work. Sometimes it takes a mighty lot of persistence–in my own case, 15 years of prayer for permission from my Spiritual Director to publish my first novel, Rain from Heaven. Fifteen years of prayer and trust may seem like a lot (well, it is!), but after that decade and a half I not only got what I was asking for but ended up with a far better, more polished book.
[SIDENOTE: I got into this business about asking and receiving a bit in my novel Amaranth. In it, the protagonist, Peter, keeps making requests of God but seemingly receiving no answer. In the end he realizes that every time he’d prayed, he’d gotten what he wanted, although not the way he expected. Instead, each time he got something better.]
My great expectation is that God will be true to His promise to grant what we ask for. Even if it takes fifteen years. Even if I don’t live to see it.
If I don’t get what I expected in this life, I’m sure God will grant me something far better in the next.