Snakes, Stones and the Answer Is No

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Matthew 7:7-11 (NLT)

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”


If we’ve ever asked God for something and not received what we wanted, we might struggle a little with Jesus’ words. But we have to ask ourselves—do we always know what’s good for us?

Something cannot be good if it is not aligned with God’s will. It would be ridiculous for us to expect God to fulfill requests that go against his larger plan. If we accept that as true, suddenly the “no” we receive in prayer is as valuable as any “yes.” The “no” gives us a clearer understanding of God’s will, which I think is one of the major purposes of prayer.

If God were to grant a bad request, I would be very concerned for the recipient. It would mean God has finally tired of prayers raised in a “My will be done” manner, rather than the recommended “Thy will be done.” It can never be a good thing for God to say, “Fine. Your will be done.”

Hey, that might be the basis for how hell works.

The bread/stone-fish/snake example makes clear how Jesus’ “keep on asking” recommendation is rooted in the concept of goodness. The children in the example are asking correctly, and the parents, flawed as they are, respond correctly.

It is possible for children to ask incorrectly, of course. Had the children asked for a stone or a snake to eat, good parents would have automatically said no, even if the children were certain they needed stones or snakes for dinner. (If this is getting too far afield from reality, or simply unappetizing, think about jawbreakers and gummy worms, instead.) And once the children grew up a little, they likely would be grateful their parents were so wise.

I think these verses become easier to understand as we age. It helps to be able to look back on our lives, remember what we wanted decades ago, and then give thanks to God we did not receive all the stones and snakes we thought were attractive.

Lord, as we pray, attune us more closely to your desire for our lives. And thanks for watching over us even when we’re a little stupid. Amen.

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