When I was five, my mom could do the most amazing things. She could hold a hot hard-boiled egg in her bare hands or knit a sweater. I couldn’t do that. And my father could repair my bridle reins or make a sling shot. I couldn’t do that. I thought those things were impossible.
But I changed. When I was twenty-five, my small children looked on with open mouths when I picked up hot hard-boiled eggs, knit sweaters, made them a sling shot or even mended harness. And now they have changed - they can do things they once thought only dad or mom could do.
What seems so far beyond a child’s mind changes when they have an adult’s perspective. It’s the same in the family of God. When I was a new Christian, a babe in my faith, I read that my Heavenly Father could “do exceeding abundantly above all that we could ask or even think . . . ” (Eph. 3:20).
This verse had about the same impact on me as a five-year-old watching dad do the impossible. I thought God would answer my little prayers with big answers, blowing me away with His skill, wisdom, and especially His generosity. I believed He would take my dreams and expand them in glorious technicolor on a giant screen. So I began praying for many things that a typical spoiled child might pray for . . . and God graciously responded - sometimes.
After a while, I realized that He was not the “genie” that I thought; I didn’t pull His strings. There were many things I wanted that He would not let me have. I even thought for a time that God, instead of being able to do more than I could ask, didn’t even care about my requests.
Then I began to grow up. From His Word, I saw that He never changes - but He wanted me to change. He is all-powerful; there is nothing too hard for Him; nothing o no one can stop whatever he determines to do - but there were many things I couldn’t do. Now that I belonged to Him, He could and did stop me, especially when I tried to thwart His purposes in childish rebellion. Like pushing on a mountain, I couldn’t budge Him an inch.
The Bible also says that God knows everything - the number of hairs on my head, my every move, my thoughts and my words before I even say them, and all my needs. The palmist says, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me!” I agree, and now I see that his knowledge is part of what it is that enables Him to do abundantly above what I ask or think.
God wasn’t about to reward my selfish view of Him as an indulgent Father. He didn’t say “no” to my grand schemes because He wasn’t able to fulfill them, nor had He changed His style since the bible was written. He can still do whatever He likes. It was just that he knows what I don’t know. So often what I requested was simply not good for me.
I learned that “doing abundantly above all that I ask or think” means more than bigger and better answers to my small prayers. God doesn’t simply add on to my ideas and expand them. Instead, He gives the very best answers. His responses promote inner peace, lasting joy, Christ-likeness, and my greatest eternal good. My childish ideas would not do those things.
I also had to learn that His answers bring Him glory. They are not designed primarily to give me temporary personal pleasure but to reveal His nature and to draw me to Him in praise and worship. My childish ideas may have brought me some glory, but not the Lord.
As I grew, the Lord did not change. Instead, He has altered my perspective and motivation. I will never be able to do what he can do, but my prayers are different from they used to be. Besides, His ideas work “abundantly above all I can ask or think” anyway.