Happy First Day of September! I love this month because it’s the back-to-routine month where we settle into the swing of rhythms. Some of my favorite times of the year lay close ahead: turning leaves, football, deep bowls of chili, turkeys on our tables, and eventually the Christmas season… but we won’t get ahead of ourselves. We’ll enjoy the present moment (but did you see how I slipped in the word present?).

As I promised, this monthly devotional will be a fresh slice of whatever is on my heart. So here goes…

Have you ever wondered if God is really good? Our belief about God’s nature has a dramatic effect on our prayer lives. I’ve been reflecting on this and hope you’ll reflect with me. Consider what Jesus says about prayer in Matthew 7:7-8: “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.” In some ways this is the “how” of prayer, but I’ve recently realized how closely it’s tied to the “who” of prayer. In other words, when Jesus tells us to approach our heavenly Father by asking, seeking, and knocking, He grounds this instruction in the good nature of God. He does this through a short parable:

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matt. 7:9-11). What is Jesus revealing about our heavenly Father here? That He can be trusted. That He delights to give to His children. Most importantly, that He is good!

Why is Jesus going out of His way to reveal to us that His Father is good? I think for at least two reasons. Perhaps the first is that given our broken world, the hardship, injustices, and trials we face, Jesus knew we would be prone to think that God is precisely not good. The people listening to Him tell this story were under Roman oppression themselves, many struggling to have their basic needs met. Sometimes when we go through pain and darkness God’s goodness isn’t always obvious to us. I wonder what might be causing you to question God’s goodness right now? No matter what you’re going through Jesus says, I promise you, God’s good. Don’t stop trusting Him.

I think the second reason Jesus tells us about God’s good nature is because He knows how much this affects our prayer life. Why would we ask, seek, or knock in pursuit of someone who is not good? I think about the relationship I have with my young nieces and nephews. They ask me for ice cream and movies, seek me out when I’m in the other room, knock on my front door. They pursue me in these ways because they believe I will give to them, be found by them, and open the door for their little personalities. They wouldn’t do this if they didn’t trust me, were afraid of me, or didn’t believe me to be good. And when I have to tell them “no,” or when I correct them, they trust my heart (even if they also complain because we’re pretty human at my house).

Whether you have a pretty fabulous aunt or a mom or dad who gives you good gifts, Jesus says, “how much more” does your heavenly Father delight to give you good things? Something I recently discovered about Matthew is that he refers to God as Father 44 times in his gospel! The personal nature of God is a huge theme for him. Interestingly, it was uncommon in ancient Jewish culture for God to be referred to as our Father (Abba or Daddy). While the idea became more common during Second Temple Judaism, Jesus sheds new light on this truth and reality. He clearly wants us to understand what a good, trustworthy, and personally-involved Father we have (see Matt. 6:5-8 and 7:7-11).

So here’s my encouragement to you: When you can’t make sense of what you or a loved one is going through, when you’ve asked and nothing seems to be happening, when your heart is broken, keep pursuing your Father in prayer because His nature is good. Ask, seek, and knock, not because you’re trying to wrangle something from His hands but because this is your privilege as His child. And when you doubt God’s goodness, tell Him. A good Father will understand.