Asking for What We Need

Whether or not you’re aware of it, you have developed strategies for how to get your needs met. You began developing these strategies as an infant. “If I cry, someone will come feed me.”  From our first moments, we are designed to use our voices to be heard and to get our needs met.

As we grow, our strategies evolve.  A preschooler might say, “You gave her a cookie; that’s not fair.  I want a cookie too.” Already, in a few short years, we learn not only how to get our needs met but also how to manipulate the situation to get the desired outcome.  

The most effective way to get our needs met in relationships is simply to ask.  Although it seems easy enough, asking for what we need can be hard to do, even as an adult.  It can leave us feeling vulnerable, because it opens the door to the possibility of being told no.  The word “no” often feels like rejection.

Being able to ask for what we need in relationships is a topic that comes up often in couples counseling:

“We’ve been married for 10 years, shouldn’t he know by now what I want for my birthday?”

“I want him to come up with a surprise for our anniversary.”

“I wish she would hold my hand more often in public….”

Have you asked your spouse for those things?

Very often, the answer is no.  Although it may seem that your spouse should know what you want and need after years of marriage, often, they just don’t.   Even loving spouses are not mind readers.  In most loving relationships the partner does care about his/her spouse’s needs.  If those needs are communicated in a clear and respectful way, meeting those needs can be a joy for the partner.

In some relationships, it may not feel safe to ask for what you need.  If you have been in a toxic or abusive relationship, there is a good chance that you have learned not to ask at all, because you won’t be heard anyway.  However, in safe, healthy relationships, where there is love and respect, expressing needs and desires is a key to the growth of trust and intimacy.  Not only can we learn to advocate for our own needs in safe relationships, but our loved ones will also grow to better understand us.

This topic is relevant to parenting as well.  Often we hear parents say to their screaming toddlers, “Use your words,” or to a teenager, “Talk to me with respect!”  Parenting is an effort in training our children to be able to regulate, have healthy relationships, and become independent human beings.  Learning to appropriately ask for what they need is a huge part of that process.

My youngest son and I playing at the creek.

Parents love their children and desire to care for them and respond to their needs.  When my child asks me for a hug, I am happy to comply.  In the process of asking and receiving, children learn that they are heard – that their voices and needs matter.

Jesus teaches in Matthew 7, that our Heavenly Father cares for us in the same way.  He desires to give His children good things and encourages us to come to Him with our requests.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!  Matthew 7:7-11 ESV

In John 14, Jesus says that if His disciples ask anything in His name He will do it.

John 14:14 ESV

Unlike a spouse, parent, or friend, the Lord really can read your mind.  He knows your needs better than you know them yourself.  Still, He encourages us to come to Him with our requests.  He longs to hear our voices, our needs and desires, and He’s the best listener there is!

Pause: Quiet your mind and body.  Meditate on the verses above.

Renew: Before one can ask for what they need, it is important to first recognize what that need is.  Spend some time identifying any needs in your life that you want to bring before the Lord.

Next:  This week, pay attention to the strategies you are using to get your needs met in relationships.  When you find that you are resentful over needs or wants that have gone unmet, consider how you can best reach out and ask for those needs in the future.

May you be encouraged today to come with confidence before the throne of God, your Heavenly Father, to ask for what you need.

Pause, Renew, Next!

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