If I Could Ask God One Question
Updated: Jan 10, 2022
Join with me in a brief thought experiment. Imagine that you are out walking one day when you are suddenly confronted by an angel. He tells you that God has heard your prayers, has seen you striving to be obedient, and knows that you have been troubled. He reassures you that God is always with you.
Then the angel surprises you with some amazing news, he is taking you to see the Heavenly Father. More than this, you have been granted a great privilege: When you see the Father, you may ask Him one question, any question, and He will give you the answer. Any mystery of the universe and beyond can be revealed to you.
You have only a few minutes to gather your thoughts before you will be whisked away to the meeting. You must decide. If you could ask God one question, any question, what would it be? (I hope you will take a few minutes to think about it before you continue to read.)
In 2017 Barry Williams and Paul Cooper wrote a book titled If You Could Ask God One Question. The book was a culmination of several years of research during which they asked hundreds of people that very thing: if you could ask God one question, what would it be? In the book, they present the twelve most common responses and offer some very good, and Biblically-sound, answers. But what about you? What is the one question you would ask?
For my own part, I have thought about this question many times over the years. When I was young, I wanted to ask God some version of, “What is the meaning of this life?” I wondered why it was necessary, what sort of purpose it held, and why I was here.
As I became older and “smarter,” I joined the camp of unbelievers. Even though I did not believe in God, the same question would occasionally cross my mind. If there really was a God, I thought, I would ask Him, “Why are you hiding? Why do you leave the people you supposedly love stuck in this world of pain? Why do people believe so many different things about you?” These, and a dozen other questions would race through my mind, but they all really boiled down to this: “How can you justify treating us this way and then holding us accountable for adhering to some set of arbitrary rules?” (I was a bit angry and full of bravado in those days.)
The questions in Cooper and Williams’ book are much the same as the questions I had in my angry-person/unbeliever phase. And left to my own devices that is where I would have remained. By God’s grace, however, I found my way back to Him.
Even after my return to faith, from time to time this little thought experiment would cross my mind but now I had changed. My angry-person questions had been asked and answered. I was no longer angry. Now there was only one question I could imagine asking God if I ever had the opportunity: “Lord, will you ever forgive someone as rebellious, disobedient, and self-centered as me?”
Yes, I knew this question too had been asked and answered many times by the Apostles, by the Prophets, and by God himself through His Son, but if I were ever to find myself face-to-face with the Almighty, I was sure this would be the only question that could escape my trembling lips.
More recently, I have been thinking about the question anew. I have thought about all the questions from my earlier years as well as that forgiveness question that has been stuck in my mind since I returned to faith. I have come to realize that, while they are all very different in tone, they were really variations of same question: “What about me?”
Throughout my life, when I have imagined what one question I would ask God, it has always been all about me. Sometimes it has been about my insecurities or about my frustrations or my vanity or satisfying my curiosity. In every case, however, my question has always had me at center stage.
Once again, I realized that I am still far more self-centered that anyone ought to be. So, I have been rethinking my approach. If I encountered that angel in my driveway tomorrow morning, perhaps the one question I should ask God, the one question that would be most helpful for my life is this: “Lord, how can I best serve you?”
I do not know if that is the “right” question, or the “best” question, but I am pretty sure that knowing this one thing is more or less everything I need to know in this life. It might be profoundly interesting to know about the origins of the universe, or when it is going to end. It would certainly be satisfying to have all my theological questions answered. I would naturally love the blessed reassurance of hearing directly from God that all will be forgiven. But none of that knowledge would do much to help me live a better, more Godly life.
The one answer that would make a real difference in what I did, and who I was, next week, next year, and for the remainder of my days is the answer to, “How can I best serve you?” If I had the answer to this one question, I would know everything I need to know to fulfill my purpose, to find true joy, to live well, and to be the person I was meant to be.
Of course, we can ask that question, even without an angel stepping into our path. We can, and should, ask that question each morning in prayer. And each evening before we sleep, we can ask God to help us be a better servant tomorrow than we were today.
“Lord, how can I best serve you?” Somehow I think this one question is all I really need to know in this life, and the next.
P.S. Well, just as I was feeling quite satisfied with this idea, I was reminded that asking the question is the easy part. I have learned from experience that listening for and heeding the answer when it arrives is usually much more difficult. If we ask God to show us how we can best serve Him, we may very well receive a response that demands more of us than we are ready to give! So here is my new morning prayer: "Lord, how can I best serve you? Lord grant me the wisdom to hear your call and the courage to respond faithfully."
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