by Erin Hawley
Round and golden, the moon hung low over the horizon. We had returned home late from a family visit, and my two-year-old son was enjoying the last slanting light of the summer sun. Then he noticed the moon. “Mama, what is that?” my incredulous toddler asked. His bedtime schedule meant that he rarely, if ever, saw the summer moon. Entranced, Elijah stood stock-still. And then he jumped, fingers outstretched, reaching for the golden globe. And he jumped. And he jumped.
Finally, he turned to me in exasperated disbelief. “I can’t reach it. Mama, will you get it for me?”
There was not even a hint of doubt in his eyes. My two-year-old was certain that I not only could produce the moon but would. It nearly broke this mama’s heart to tell him, “I’m sorry, Elijah; I can’t reach the moon either.”
“Mama, will you get it for me?” Children are not shy of making wild requests of their parents. As we get older, we often learn to lower our expectations and to be more timid in pursuing the deepest desires of our hearts. While a dose of reality can be a good thing, children show us the Lord’s heart for our prayers. They show us how to make outrageous requests, to believe that our prayers will be heard and answered, and to never, ever give up.
The Canaanite Woman’s Outrageous Request
The Bible is full of outrageous requests. Particularly outrageous for the time was the brave Canaanite woman in Matthew 15. She was a mom with a troubled daughter. She was a woman during a time period when women were less than. They were not allowed to speak to men in public, and their testimony was considered so unreliable that they were not allowed to serve as witnesses in legal cases. Canaanite women were in an even worse position. The Israelites and Canaanites were forbidden from intermarrying and constantly at war.
Yet this woman boldly approached Jesus and cried out to Him for help. She didn’t care who heard her or what they thought. Even when Jesus failed to answer (some non-answers to prayers are actually Jesus saying “wait … just wait”), the woman refused to give up. She kept it up so long and was so loud and distracting that the disciples urged Jesus to send her away.
When Jesus finally spoke, His words were not encouraging. Jesus told the Canaanite woman that He was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. Even this did not deter the brave mom: “Lord, help me,” she responded (Matthew 15:25). Then, knowing the depth of this brave woman’s faith, Jesus replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (verse 26). Still undeterred, she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table” (verse 27). Upon this amazing display of confident belief, Jesus spoke words to her that live on through time immortal: “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire” (verse 28). Her daughter was healed at that very instant.
The Canaanite woman’s request was outrageous. As a woman, it was culturally taboo for her to speak to a man in public. On top of that, she was not even Jewish. And yet this brave mom asked for the impossible.
And Jesus answered.
While Jesus’ initial reaction may at first blush seem less than charitable, Jesus knew who was standing before Him. He knew the Canaanite woman inside and out. He knew her strength, the depth of her childlike faith, and her great love for her daughter. He knew she would persevere and provide an encouraging example to this mom two thousand years later. I’m humbled by her example, the mom who dared public ridicule to reach out with both hands and ask for a miracle. In her bold asking, as in Elijah’s request for the moon, I see the Father’s heart for us: the boldness to ask, to really ask, for our hearts’ desires.
Asking as a Daughter or Son
A toddler’s freedom in making an outrageous request—Can I have the moon? Can I have ice cream for breakfast? Can I have a real sword?—comes from their identity as a child. They don’t ask random strangers for the moon. Nor do they pepper even close relatives with a never-ending stream of requests and demands. Children’s comfort in requesting so much so often depends upon their relationship with the person whom they are asking. They ask because they are daughters and sons.
This, dear friend, is how Jesus prayed—as a son to His father. This is how He teaches us to pray too. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus famously instructs His disciples to begin their prayers with the invocation “Our Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9, nasb). The original Greek, pater, means “begetter, creator, progenitor, one in intimate connection and relationship.” In the Old Testament God is referred to as the Father of the nation of Israel but seldom of individuals. Jesus changes all of that. He gives us the right to call God our Father in the personal, individual sense—He is the Father God of “intimate connection and relationship.” He is our begetter and our creator.
Even more, through Jesus we can claim the God of the universe as our “Abba,” our papa or daddy. There has been some academic debate as to whether Abba really should be translated to mean “daddy or papa.” Regardless, the word is unquestionably an affectionate, tender endearment between child and father. It comes from the root word pa, which means “nourisher, protector, upholder.” Galatians tells us that God sent forth the Spirit into our hearts to cry, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6). And Paul especially picks up on this close relationship, explaining that we have been given a spirit of adoption, whereby we too may cry, “Abba! Father!”
Through our adoption in Jesus, we have just this sort of intimate relationship with the God of the universe. He is our closest ally. He is our stronghold. He is our nourisher, our protector, and our upholder. He knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. He provides the food that we eat and the air that we breathe. He delights in us and He gives us life. We can pray to Jesus out of the same sort of expectation, born of a loving and trusting relationship, that allows our children to request the moon, or even a third lollipop.
Taken from Living Beloved: Lessons from My Little Ones About the Heart of God by Erin Hawley. Copyright © 2018. Used by permission of Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Erin Hawley is a rising star in the legal profession and the political world (her husband, Josh Hawley, is attorney general for the state of Missouri and is a candidate for the U.S. Senate). She is well spoken and articulates the heart of God, which she has learned through caring for her children.
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