“Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you, then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11).
Two kinds of gifts come to us from God. Some meet our needs in this world—we call these gifts our daily bread. Other gifts we need for eternal life. Jesus promises that God the Father will give us both kinds of gifts. He is good, far better than we are; he will not trick us by giving us the wrong thing. Since Jesus tells us to seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, we can expect those gifts to be God’s highest priority as he hears and answers our prayers. Since he has already given us these gifts, we have no reason to think that God will forget to give us the things we need for our daily lives in this world.
Jesus pointedly says that we are evil, but God is good. We need this reminder because, being evil, we tend to think the worst of God. We think it is possible for God to forget us or to play tricks on us. Jesus reminds us that God is our Father. Jesus himself paid the price for our adoption, making God our Father. If God loves us as a Father, he surely will never forget us or play tricks on us.
Hidden in this promise of Jesus is another fatherly fact about God. When we pray, we can count on this fact to be true. If a child is hungry but asks for a stone to eat, the child’s father will still give bread to the child. If a child needs a fish but asks for a serpent, the father will still give the fish. This substitution is no trick. Fatherly love gives what is best to children even when the children do not know how to ask for things that are good.
When we pray to God about the things we need in this world—what to eat, what to drink, what to wear—God already knows what we need. He knows even before we ask. He will give us good things, even in spite of our requests. God wants us to talk with him about everything that matters to us. His fatherly relationship with us includes his interest in hearing what we have to say. When we pray, we remember that God is the source of everything good in our lives. We speak to him as children speak to a Father they love and trust. We know that if our Father makes any substitutions, choosing not to give us what we seek, his changes will be for the better.
When we pray about God’s kingdom and his righteousness, we are fully confident that our prayers will be answered. God will substitute nothing for his kingdom and his righteousness. Jesus takes our guilt upon himself and pays the penalty we deserve. We receive his righteousness and the rewards he earned. We receive a place in God’s kingdom. We pray with confidence about the forgiveness of our sins and about our lives as his people. Our Father loves us; he is not going to withhold from us any of the blessings he wants us to have. J.