Matthew 7:9-11 (NIV) “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
Some people, even in Jesus’ day, had a theology that made no sense to God, and that Jesus was debunking here. That theology is that we have to be careful what we pray for, because if we pray for something good that we legitimately need, God might surprise us by giving us something unpleasant instead. The example that is usually given is that if we pray for patience, God is likely to give us more problems instead, so that we can develop more patience.
Such a theology, which is still extant today, shows a complete lack of understanding of God and of His character. Jesus had just finished telling His disciples that when they had a legitimate need, they need to keep asking, seeking, and knocking until they see the answer. Now He needed to reassure them that when they asked for what they legitimately needed, they didn’t have to worry about getting something nasty in return.
The examples that Jesus uses are simple and easy to understand. If a hungry child goes to a parent asking for a piece of bread or a fish to eat, he does so with the expectation that even if his parent is not a model of goodness, that they will give them food, not something worthless like a rock, or something dangerous like a snake.
The point is that God is more loving and good than any earthly parent, and can be trusted to meet any legitimate need that is brought to Him with a sincere heart. To believe and to teach otherwise is to besmirch God’s name and His character, the exact opposite of the making God’s name hallowed that Jesus instructed us to pray for and to strive towards.
Father, it is easy to see how false teachings about prayer, and about your ability and willingness to provide for us as You promised brings dishonor to Your name, damages Your character in the eyes of the world, and causes people to turn away from You instead of turning toward You as You desire. Help us to keep ourselves directly in Your path every day, so that we are in a position to receive exactly what we ask You for, and then help us to share our testimony of Your goodness and faithfulness to us with everyone we meet. Amen.