Growing up as a missionary kid in Ukraine, I always looked forward to hosting visitors from North America. Medical missionaries, travelling evangelists, and sponsors were some of the regular guests that were hosted around my family’s dinner table. There was never a shortage of interesting conversation or good food during these special times.
One time my family hosted a jolly man named Ray who was from the United States. Ray was a regular sponsor of my parents’ missionary work, and he was eager to learn about Ukraine. We had a good time showing Ray around our city and answering all of his questions. Near the end of his stay, Ray took me and my older sister to a store and told us that we could choose anything we wanted as a gift.
As my mind brimmed with possibilities—a doll house or a new stuffed animal?—my sister pulled me aside and reminded me not to be greedy. “You shouldn’t choose anything too expensive,” she said. “It’s bad manners.” We agreed that we shouldn’t take advantage of Ray’s generosity. We would both choose something modest, and we’d both choose the same thing—just to be fair.
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We settled on two erasers.
One that smelled like watermelon for my sister and one that smelled like grapes for me. Erasers!
“Are you sure?” Ray asked, once we announced our choice. We nodded in agreement, Ray chuckled, and the erasers became ours.
As an adult, I’ve noticed that this “eraser mentality” has a habit of creeping into my prayer life.
Sometimes I find myself reluctant to ask God for anything out of the ordinary. There’s a voice in the back of my mind, urging me to stick with the mundane because God probably has other plans or more qualified servants for the opportunities that I’m seeking.
But I don’t think that God wants us to think about Him that way. God wants us to think of Him as a generous Father, full of lovingkindness (Ex. 34:6-7), who gives good gifts to those who ask him (Matt. 7:11), gifts that are “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20). As long as our motives are pure, I think God wants us to pray boldly and stop making mousy requests for “erasers”!
But even mousy requests can be redeemed. Before he left, Ray surprised me and my sister with two beautiful musical wind-up toys (we’ve kept them all these years). Similarly, I believe that God can take our timid requests and surprise us with opportunities that we never dreamed of. But how much more could be done if we prayed regularly and boldly with faith?
What about you? What would you pray for if you didn’t have to mind your manners?