My brother shared this hilarious video of his son, Gage.
Before you watch, a little explanation: they taught Gage sign language. He is making the sign (or at least his sign, which they recognize) for please at the beginning.
Somewhere, along about the dozenth time I had watched this, I had this epiphany that this was more than just a funny video of my darling nephew. This was saying something about me and my relationship with God…and about prayer.
Gage wanted something, something his parents had in their power to give him. He did the right thing – he asked for it. Nicely, even. He didn’t try to get it on his own, he didn’t scream and fuss and demand. “Please,” he signed. That was good.
“Please what?” his parents asked him. So he pointed. There is NO question about what he wants. Gage may not be very verbal here, but he is VERY clear. But they don’t give him what he wants yet. They keep asking, specifically, they are asking him to speak, to use his voice and ask.
“We can’t hear you.”
In the smart a** response of the century for a not-quite-2-year-old, he replies literally. He bangs on the table. Of if I could only have heard that internal dialogue at that moment in time! “Hear this.”
They continue to press; he continues to resist with even clearer, more dramatic pointing. He’s being so clear…he’s got to be thinking, “my parents are a couple of morons if they can’t understand what I want now!”
But they do understand. The issue is not their understanding of him now, it’s their understanding of him later. What I mean is, they aren’t just thinking about today. They are thinking about the future. They love his funny little signs and sounds—we all do—and right now he is pretty much able to communicate with all of us exactly what he wants with them. But they won’t be sufficient communication in the future. Because as he matures, they are going to want to know more than just his basic wants. They will want to know his thoughts and feelings and ideas—things that are hard to communicate via gesture and animal sound. They know that he is going to need to know how to communicate with language, for his own sake, and for the sake of their relationship.
So they delay giving him what he wants so that he can learn to ask for it, properly.
They didn’t always. It used to be that they were thrilled for him to point—that was progress! It was a relief that he was showing them what he wanted, and they comprehended it. But that was then.
Now pointing, even pointing nicely, isn’t enough. It’s time that he learn how to ask, with his words.
This is what God does to us on so many levels. There are times when we pray and he just answers, no questions asked. He’s just glad we are learning to look to Him to meet our needs in the first place! That’s progress! But, as we learn that He is the source, as we learn to come to him, then He often begins to delay the answers because He wants to teach us a little more about the right way to ask. He wants to teach us to really pray, to posture ourselves properly before Him, to trust in His word, to cling to His promises. He wants us to learn to dialogue with him so that our talking can mature from pointing to what we want, to discussing our thoughts, hopes, dreams, disappointments, feelings, etc. with Him. Things that we can’t do without words, without our voice, without some better communication between us and God.
Maybe you’re frustrated. Maybe you’ve been pointing to what you want, and you’ve even said please, but God isn’t giving it to you. If you hear him saying, “I can’t hear you” it may not be that He doesn’t understand you, or that you need to bang on the table, or pray louder, or point clearer. Maybe what he means is that He is choosing not to hear you until you learn to ask properly. Just maybe He wants to hear something from you that you aren’t saying yet.