A very lengthy quote from Larry Crabb's book "The Papa Prayer." I haven't read the book, just heard this one story. It might seem like a slow start, but in the end, the story is well-worth reading. Oh that our hearts would burn like David's, who asked for one thing from the Lord.... to gaze upon the Lord's beauty and seek Him all his days... (Psalm 27: 4)
Here's the quote, beginning on p 151:
For just a moment, fix your eyes on what you can't see. Tilt your ear toward the world of the Spirit, and listen in on a dialogue going on right now between you and God.
God: I've kept a list of everything you've ever asked Me for. Some requests I've granted. Some I've denied. Look over the list, and add to it anything you would like to ask Me for now.
You: Will you give me everything I ask for?
You: But you didn't before. I've asked for lots of things You didn't give me.
God: Every unanswered request was not a true prayer. Those petitions did not come from your heart.
You: I don't understand.
God: You will. Complete the list. Ask for anything you want.
Confused but excited, you read through the hundreds of prayers that contain every request you've ever made to God. You have asked for much, little things and big things, things that mattered to you a great deal and things that you merely preferred, like good weather for your holiday picnic.
You're surprise at how many requests have been granted. You're grateful. But many requests, both big and little, have been denied. In some cases, you can now see a greater good was served because God didn't give you what you asked for.
But not in all. It still makes no sense why your son's heart was hardened when he was first caught smoking marijuana. And it's only gotten worse. You've prayed daily that he'll find God and return to the family.
That request is already on the list. It fills a dozen pages. But didn't God just say He would grant whatever request you add to the list? The story of the persistent petitioner comes to mind. You grab your pen, turn to the blank pages at the end of the sheaf of papers in front of you, and eagerly write: I want my son to become a Christian, to give up drugs, finish college, marry a wonderful Christian girl, develop into a godly husband and father, succeed in a worthwhile career, and live to advance God's kingdom! Amen.
Your heart races. God told you to ask away, for anything. You scribble more requests: Good health, no Alzheimer's, 20 percent annual growth in my pension fund, intimate marriage, lifelong friendships, renewed energy, no headaches.
Your imagination kicks into high gear. With the freedom of no embarassment, your desires swing wildly between "good life" hopes and "spriritual" yearnings: a bigger house, a pure thought life, lots of money, deeper peace, exciting sex, powerful impact on others. Then God speaks again.
God: Look deeper into your heart. See if there are more desires you have not yet expressed.
You feel silly, but you write down your desire to eat what you want and never gain weight, to exercise as little as you want and still get in good shape, to convince your spouse he needs to be more sensitive, less critical and more appreciative of all you do.
As you read what you've just written, you become aware of deeper desires within you:
I want a life full of meaning.
I want my church to become a real community.
I want to love my family better.
I want to be a good grandparent.
I want to be content, not greedy.
I want to feel joy and hope and love.
Your dialogue with God continues:
You: I'm finished, God. I can't think of anything more to add.
God: You haven't yet discovered your heart.
You: What do you mean?
God: I told you I would give you whatever you want. Its this what you want?
You: My list is complete. I have written down everything I want.
God: Then I will give you everything on your list. But on one condition: You will never hear My voice again. I will withdraw all sense of My presence from you. You will never know Me.
Immediately, you tear up your list into little pieces. Thousands of requests on hundreds of papers lie scattered on the ground in scraps all around you.
You fall down in the middle of them all.
You: God, theses are second things, all of them. I see it now. Yes, I want them. But they mean nothing if I don't have You.
God: You have discovered your heart. You will now meet Me as your guide into love, your healer of selfishness, your king with all power, your friend in the highest place, your Giver of Life.