Of course, as we go through life, there are going to be times when we want something from someone else. As children, it makes sense that we're not going to be sensitive about how we ask for those things that we want out of immaturity or sheer helplessness. But as we grow more mature, and we realize the world doesn't revolve around us, we have a choice about how we approach someone when we want something of theirs, whether it's some material object, their time, their help, or something else. We can ask, or we can demand. I think most of us think that we automatically know to ask, and not demand. But I think our attitudes when we approach the other about the thing that we want show that maybe we weren't as innocent as we thought we were.
Here's the key difference: do I think the thing I'm asking for is truly yours, or do I think it's mine already? If I really believe it's yours, again, whether it's your time, or energy, or object, even intangibles like respect and approval, then my approach is a lot different. I will come to you knowing that the thing that I want belongs to you, and that the rights to that thing belong to you. You don't have to give it to me. If I believe I have a right to the thing that I'm asking for, if I look at your situation, and I make the judgement call that it wouldn't hurt you to give me the thing that I want, I feel entitled to it, and I really don't believe it's yours. In my mind, it's mine already. I'm just waiting for you to hand it over. This also produces impatience. We're going to be a lot more irritated at waiting for something that we think is ours than something that we respect as belonging to someone else. That leads to the other key difference: how do we respond to no, or the possibility of no. If I know the thing being asked for is yours, no may be met with disappointment, but also humility and respect. If the thing being asked for is something I feel I have the right to, no is met with anger, and resentment. Obviously, if something truly belongs to us, and someone won't give it to us, it would be unjust. But what if we were wrong? What if we forgot that the thing we asked for isn't really ours? I think there's many times when we think we're asking, but we're really demanding. We don't really believe what we want belongs to the other. We are out for the taking. Our wills are trying to dominate a situation. We aren't respecting the will of the other. It's terrible when we demand from another human being, to try to override their will. It's incredibly preposterous, when we think about it, that we demand from God rather than ask him. And I have realized that I do that very thing.
For me, what made me see this, to unravel all of this, to see the difference between demanding and asking, was my attitude towards the possibility of a no from God about what I want. I have done this in the past and I am fighting doing it now. It's hard for me not to get mad at God when I think about not getting what I want. If there's anyone to be able to give the possibility of no to, it's God, because if he says no, it's with our best interest at heart. Here's another thing. I said before that with another person, if I'm demanding from that person, I'm making the judgement call that I know better than that person about what to do with the thing that I want. I do this with God. I think I know what he ought to do with people and situations that are his. So much pride. While there may be cases where we might actually know better than another human being about something, and we have to relent out of respect for their will, of course God knows better than us. Perhaps all of our troubles come down to thinking we know better than God. I think there are times when he says no, that he might be doing it so that he's not giving in to a brat. The same way you don't give a child candy because they throw a fit, God won't give in to us when we throw a fit. He's not going to indulge our pride. He wants us to trust him.
But the reality of it isn't so simple. What if we have to ask when the stakes are higher? What if we have to ask rather than demand that God intervenes and saves our house, that he saves our relationship, that he restores the health of our child? Of course we want to demand. The more we value something or someone, the harder it is to accept the possibility of no, the harder it is to accept that they belong to God, and not to us. The fear is high. But thankfully we have a merciful, good, loving Father, one who understands our anger and pain and headache when we want something from him. And I believe if we bring these feelings to him, if we're honest about where we're at, he can help us know how to ask rather than demand from him.