When prayer is a feast, and you realize you’re famished.

Which came first, the prayer or the answer to it?

Let’s say there is a season of drawing near, hungry as Oliver Twist, drawn by the lavish feast and the door thrown open. Let’s say the table is piled high with steaming loaves of bread and trays of smoky meat, fruit like bright jewels, overflowing mugs, creamy pies and tall cakes. You’re just minding your own business, walking past, but there it is with a welcome sign and it’s all free. Really, free? For me?

And isn’t that a picture of prayer–one of us hungry and lean and leaning in to that doorway with the feast just waiting under the welcome sign?

It’s not that God gives us whatever we ask for (Publisher’s Clearing House comes to mind). He is the feast, and blessed are the hungry.

God our Father, God our Friend, He is the one who invites us to pray. It is not for wish lists and whining, but to raise a glass in conversation, stay up till the wee hours, fascinated, laughing, crying, amazed. Not our genie in a bottle, but transcendent, holy, hallowed be thy name.

But starting there with the Our Father, really getting into that place where we can even wrap our heads around the setting of this conversation–the fatherly host who loves our prodigal hearts, the lavish grace that invites us in–we may never even get to our daily bread, we’ve gotten lost in the first line. And from that holy place, Thy will be done is a given–it’s grateful surrender and a stirring to sacrifice that had been half asleep in our hearts.

But if we ever get down to our daily bread, for pete’s sake get out a pencil. Somehow when we start to pray, really pray, for a season of drawing near, we start to see answers everywhere. It’s especially true when we write them down, the desires of our heart, when we take that long list and start to prune it, ask the Lord to make it match His plans. Suddenly we’re seeing graces everywhere, little to big, and it brings me back to that question:

Which came first, the prayer or the answer to it?

Is God just waiting to be asked? Or has He been doing little miracles all along, and we just missed them, not paying attention? Either way, every day is Easter morning, and we’re spotting pink and green eggs under every bush. Every day is Easter, and Jesus is waiting in disguise–now a gardener, now just a traveler on the road to Emmaus.

But He’s teaching us, too–teaching us to wait better (anticipating, not panicking.) Teaching us to ask for daily bread, not a one-year stockpile, not extravagances. Teaching us to “value most that which is most valuable” (I borrow language here–from whom? I don’t remember. Maybe John Piper. Maybe my husband.) We are with Moses, gathering manna. We are with Peter, scooping fish from the sea.

The asking comes with a thankful heart, creates a thankful heart. The waiting is sweet, a longing, homesickness. We ask, and we realize we asked wrong, and we laugh, and we ask again. Then we realize there’s no wrong way to ask, and we laugh some more, and we circle back to that good, good Father, and we try not to be antsy while we wait.

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