Usually each night at dinner, my children get a lesson in a father’s love through my silence. As has been the routine for the last 8 months at our house, we try to have a little something for dessert following dinner. The only rule is that you have to finish what you have been served. This has never been a problem for Gideon. Ryan has valiantly overcome his aversion to broccoli and Kyra, well, its hit or miss with her.
It never fails though as I am getting up from the table to begin our cleaning I will hear something like this:
“Dad do I have to eat all my dinner to get dessert?”
“What has been the routine for the last 8 months?”
“We have to eat everything to get dessert.”
Couple of minutes go by as they finish up.
“Dad, I ate everything. Do I get dessert?”
This time my answer is silence.
My silence isn’t to be mean. Its actually the opposite. It is a very loving silence. In my silence I am trying to teach my children to trust what I have already said is true, that I will in fact, give them dessert. I am trying, in a small way, to cement in their hearts that “Dad is going to do what he said he would do.” They don’t need to ask me over and over again about dessert. They need to trust in their heart that I am who I say that I am and I will do what I say I will do.
I am often silent in the midst of my children’s questions for another reason; They are foolish, silly questions. As five and six year olds, their questions can get silly and nonsensical. Sometimes I tell them so and other times I ignore their questions in hopes that they will learn to guard their lips and ask questions that are appropriate. I ignore them so that they will see that there is a standard they need to try to meet when asking questions. Now to set the record straight, I answer more times then I am silent. And I help them rephrase questions as much as I can. But silence is another teaching tool I use.
Of course, I am not perfect. Children are good about pointing that out and there are times I have to ask for forgiveness for falling short of their expectations.
I was thinking about this the other day when I was thinking about our Heavenly Father and how he responds to our prayers. I was thinking about the reasons that God is silent in the midst of our prayers and thinking about the way I am silent with my own children.
I was thinking about Jesus the night he was to be crucified and how he stood silent many times in front of Pilate, Caiaphas, and Herod. The Gospels state more then a few times that Jesus Christ stood silent in the face of his accusers. (Isaiah 53:7,Luke 23:9, Mark 15:4-5,) Many times his only answer was to remind them of things he had said before. And the one question he would not ignore was when they asked him about his identity as the Son of Man.
I also remembered Proverbs 26:4
“Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.”
It made me wonder if we have often miss something in God’s silence to our prayers. Now God is silent for many reasons I am sure. But have we ever stopped to consider that God maybe silent in our prayers because our prayers might be foolish. I mean think about it. Prayer is one of the only things, if not the only thing, the disciples ever ask Jesus to teach them how to do. They healed people, performed other miracles in his name, shared the gospel, but they asked Jesus to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1). The implication here is that praying is not always about “just talking to God.” There is a way we need to approach it. We need to be taught to do it right.
Maybe God doesn’t answer the prayer of a fool, lest he be like him. There is, of course, a tension here. We have open access to the throne room of God through the blood of Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:18) , yet it doesn’t mean that God now serves us in our grocery list of prayers. We serve Him. In the same way, my children have access to me, but that doesn’t give them the right to be lewd, crude, or overtly silly in their conversations to me. How blessed are we even more that God had given us his Son to be our intercessor to pray for us (1 Tim 2:5) and given us the Holy Spirit to also intercede for us (Rom. 8:26). God knew our foolish prayers would be coming and sent help.
Or God is silent to our prayers for the same reason that I am silent to my children’s request. Not because he wants to ignore us, but because he wants us to trust what he has already said he will do. Often times God maybe silent not to push us away, but to draw us closer to what he has already told us about himself through His revealed Word in the Scripture and through his Son.
So God is sometimes silent in our prayers. But it is always for our good. Sometimes maybe because we are foolish and other times because he wants us to trust Him. This shouldn’t lead to our being apathetic in prayer. Just the opposite. We should pray, pray more, pray boldly, pray wisely, pray with conviction, pray to fall in love with the one we are praying to, and search His Word to find answers to prayers we have already prayed.
And always remember this: Dessert is coming. Like I am trying to teach my children, let’s be more excited about the faithfulness of the one that served it then the sweetness of the cake on our plate.