A lesson in prayer from my daughter’s birthday excitement

It was my daughter Layla’s ninth birthday last week, but if you’d asked her, it was more like her birthday season.

Five months ago, Layla not only started talking about what gifts she wanted for her birthday— she began developing a meal plan for the big day (donuts, a Lunchable, and tacos).

Layla deemed the day before her birthday, “Birthday Eve.” She went around talking about it to anyone who would listen, including a Target cashier, who thrilled Layla by correctly guessing that she was turning nine.

Towards the end of Birthday Eve, Raquel was trying to wrap Layla’s presents in the kitchen and Layla ran down the stairs to get a snack. She came to an abrupt halt, however, when Raquel yelled, with exasperation, “Layla! For the fourth time, do not come into the kitchen. Go upstairs and don’t come back down here!”

I felt a bit of pity for Layla. She was just excited and couldn’t contain herself, and I hoped it hadn’t squelched her childlike anticipation. Not a chance.

Layla ran back upstairs, burst into my room, and said, with her face joyfully beaming: “Mommy made me get out of the kitchen!”

I found this amusing, considering the fact that being kicked out of the kitchen would normally have left Layla dismayed. But she was convinced that her mom was up to something good — a birthday surprise that would be revealed in just 12 hours after months of waiting.

She was happy the next morning, discovering that she had some gifts she had asked for and some she didn’t expect. It was worth the wait.

Layla reminded me of the difficulty we sometimes have in waiting on God. We have all of these things on our wish list that we desperately want Him to provide. And while we know that God can come through, there’s no guarantee that He will. What if He waits too long? What if He says no?

And we’re not just asking for tacos or a toy. We’re requesting healing, the salvation of family members, restoration of broken relationships, financial breakthroughs, justice, and/or deliverance from demonic attacks. There’s often no end in sight, and unlike the parents of a birthday girl, God’s not working off of a deadline.

Even so, like Layla, we have to start with the assumption that our Father wants to give us good things, and that it’s OK to keep asking for them. He’s capable of filtering out the things we don’t need. As Charles Spurgeon said, we must remember that “God is too good to be unkind and He is too wise to be mistaken. And when we cannot trace His hand, we must trust His heart.”

As we humble ourselves and become a child, we can trust that Father God will give us so much more than we could ask or imagine: The “kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). The kingdom of heaven! What more could we ask for?

With that perspective, even when God tells us no, we can actually be thrilled: “He told me to get out of the kitchen!” Because we know that He must be setting us up for something very, very good.

Check out my book, “Confessions of a Happily Married Man,” which tells the story of how God has worked in the ordinary (and extraordinary) of my marriage — and how you can see the ways He’s working in yours too.