512) Do You Know What You Want?


     One time when I was a little kid some friends were coming over, and I wanted to play with a new toy I just received.  My mother knew that whenever I got together with those rowdies we’d get wild and things always got broke, so she advised against it.  I kept begging and she gave in; we played with the new toy and it was destroyed.  My mother then said, “Are you satisfied now?…”  She had given me what I wanted, but the end result was not what I wanted.

     Did your mom ever say that?  As I recall my Mom had many opportunities to say that.  No matter how old we are, we never know quite how to be satisfied.  And that is made nearly impossible by the fact that much of the time we do not even know for sure what we want.  

     What do you want?  You might have yourself convinced, with very good reasons, that everything you want right now is most certainly what is best for you– and no doubt some of those things might be good.  We aren’t always wrong about these things.  But we often are wrong, and if you would think back into your past, you could probably think of several things that at one time you wanted very much, but now realize were foolish desires.  Most people can think back to a time or two about which they can thank God for not answering their prayers (as in the Garth Brooks song below).

     As a teenager I was a faithful reader of MAD magazine, and among the many things I learned in that great little publication was a line I can still recall:

“Most of us don’t know exactly what we want, but we’re pretty sure we don’t have it.”  

–Alfred E. Neuman, Mad Magazine, issue #110


Along the same lines:

When the gods wish to punish us they answer our prayers.  –Oscar Wilde

More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered prayers.  –St. Teresa of Avila



UNANSWERED PRAYERS sung by Garth Brooks (1990); written by Brooks, Larry Bastian and Pat Alger

See the music video at:


Just the other night at a hometown football game
My wife and I ran into my old high school flame
And as I introduced them the past came back to me
And I couldn’t help but think of the way things used to be

She was the one that I’d wanted for all times
And each night I’d spend prayin’ that God would make her mine
And if he’d only grant me this wish I wished back then
I’d never ask for anything again

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

She wasn’t quite the angel that I remembered in my dreams
And I could tell that time had changed me
In her eyes too it seemed
We tried to talk about the old days
There wasn’t much we could recall
I guess the Lord knows what he’s doin’ after all

And as she walked away and I looked at my wife
And then and there I thanked the Good Lord
For the gifts in my life

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the man upstairs
That just because he doesn’t answer doesn’t mean he don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers…


Best of all is to keep praying, as we are commanded, freely bringing to God whatever we think we might need or want,

but then trusting God to answer in his time and his way.


Ecclesiastes 2:10-11  —  I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure.  My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil.  Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.

Matthew 20:20-22a  —  Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.  “What is it you want?” he asked.  She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”  You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them.

Galatians 5:17  —  For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.  They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.

Matthew 7:7-8  — (Jesus said), “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

James 4:2b-3  —  …You do not have because you do not ask God.   When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Luke 22:42  —  (Jesus prayed), “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”


O Lord, we know not what is good for us.  Thou knowest what it is.  For it we pray.

–Prayer of the Khonds in North India


O Lord, you know what is best for me.  Let this or that be done as you please.  Give what you will, how much you will, and when you will.

–Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471)


Lord of Lords, grant us the good whether we pray for it or not, but evil keep from us, even though we pray for it.

–Plato (c.427-348 B.C.)