As is typical at dinner time, we ask the kids, “Who wants to pray tonight?” Most nights we get one or two hands, but Monday night, all three hands shot up in response. Letting them take turns, we listen to their endearing gratitude for soft beds and sunshine and playground time with friends. (My mom says that when we were little, we’d glance around the room and thank God for forks, vitamin C, napkins, etc.). Yes, I must admit I smile over their words. When they have said “amen,” their eyes pop open and peer at my husband and I for approval: Did I do it correctly? Was it a prayer worthy of “well done”?
We respond with “thank you” or “good job” and don’t critique their prayers, but sometimes it bothers me that they seek my approval at all. After all, they are talking to God–as we remind them–not me. I recognize that children go through this process of exploration and seek affirmation regardless of the task at hand (even prayer), but my desire for them includes personal communion with God. One day.
Throughout Scripture, God uses his words to admonish us to pray. Grasping the importance of this practice, we lean into the Father, hoping for some divine intervention.
Yet, when we pray, we can’t overlook the foundation of Who we are speaking to. Pray should not sound like a holy incantation to a magic genie in the sky.
“In order to develop a clear idea of prayer, we must first have a clear idea of God. He has a will and that we are able to relate to Him on a meaningful level. If He were impersonal, then prayer would not be meaningful. If He were personal, but uncaring and distant, prayer wouldn’t serve a purpose” (Robert Velarde, “Prayer and the Difference it Makes“).
When we pray, we seek a God all-knowing. (Is. 46:9-10, Ps. 139:1-4, Job 21:22, I John 3:20, Romans 11:33, Heb. 4:13). Obviously, we grant our Father nothing beyond what He’s already understood (from the beginning of time). He’s never surprised or shocked or unnerved by our “revelation.” We tell him what He already knows much like a child tells a parent, “Dad, I messed up. I stayed out past curfew and didn’t tell you.” Like that daddy didn’t already know? Hardly. “Mom, I’m feeling lonely and scared about moving to Jr. High.” Yeah, she saw the signs weeks ago.
Now, our finite comprehension limits our ability to perceive, but any parent knows, we usually see something in our child long before he/she brings it to our attention.
Not only does our God understand our needs and desires, but He is altogether good. (Ps. 119: 68, Neh. 9:20, Ps. 143:10, Ps. 145:9, Ps. 86:5, James 1:17). Our Father filters every experience through His love. Will circumstances feel that way? No, often not. Our emotional status nor our limited definition of “good” covers the vast magnitude of what He does in and through us. When you doubt the loving care of a heavenly Father, look no further than the Gospel of John and see the beauty of a God who humbled himself to the point of a dishonoring and cruel death on a cross, preventing us from a judgement far worse.
We do speak to a God omnipotent–no power extends higher. Truly, no comparison comes close. Some people assume Satan as God’s counterpart, but God’s leash on Satan extends him in limited and finite measures (2 Cor. 4:4, Eph. 2:2, I John 5:19, Col. 2:15, Rev. 12:12). He’s a fallen angel who knows his time here is closing in to the end. And one day, Christ will return and dismiss the enemy with His breath (2 Thess. 2:8). The act will require no effort.
The God we speak to isn’t one of inadequacy, weakness, or blunder. He doesn’t waver on the edge of serving vs. selfish; He’s always after our good, knowing exactly how to execute that end with love and compassion. And ultimately, He invites us into this relationship of humility and dependence and heart-felt alliance.
“The reality is, my prayers don’t change God. But, I am convinced prayer changes me. Praying boldly boots me out of that stale place of religious habit into authentic connection with God Himself.” – Lysa TerKeurst