I’ve always loved hymns that pray things which imply a lacking instead of confidently stating things. Instead of praying “You are my vision”, which would also a be a true statement, “Be Thou My Vision” pleads for eyes to see. It admits its own failure to remember what is true.
I know there are many who do not see the sense of asking for things that God has already promised us, including (but not limited to) the fruits of the Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, guidance, wisdom, strength, or peace. Well, I personally cannot imagine a life of prayer that doesn’t involve asking for good things—or, at least, asking for an increased ability to be aware of them.
See, that’s the thing. I know that walking with God gives me “peace that passes understanding”—I know that with the Spirit indwelling, I have access to divine Life—but it doesn’t necessarily follow that I have the tendency or the will to be mindful of that peace or that Life at every given moment. Living in this world means being beset by obstacles to peace—and I feel that asking God for things we know He gives is appropriate and healthful. I believe that this sort of petition is able to change us by making us more mindful of blessing.
I don’t pretend to understand how prayer works, especially when it involves petition. The metaphysical questions that arise when thinking about prayer are mind-boggling to say the very least, but if I look back throughout my own life, I can see how strengthening and comforting it has been to pray for mercy, for peace, for joy, for guidance.
This I do know; my relationship with God is dynamic. It isn’t just an idea or a theory—it isn’t just a concept in my set of theological beliefs that I bring up in a discussion or remind myself of when the going gets tough—it’s an *actual* relationship with an *actual* personal, benevolent Being. And if that’s true, part of my growth and development must be to grow in intimacy with God—and part of growing into a greater and closer intimacy involves learning to pray for what I need.
So if you need something—consider asking for it, even if it is something God has already promised you—even if it is a fruit of the Spirit who already dwells in your heart. Maybe there is something to be received in the asking itself.
“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?”