Thursday, June 19, 2014

What praying was meant to be

I don't have a perfect prayer life, and I'm not an expert, but I guess I have lived and prayed long enough to know what prayer isn't.  And as I learn and grow, I'm getting to know more of what it ought to be.  I still have far to grow, but this is a truth I have come to personally know.

When we were little, our moms and dads were the strongest and wisest people we knew.  In fact children don't even feel like they are independent people at all, but actually extensions of their parents.  They live and breathe and exist because Mommy or Daddy is there and taking care of them, and they are perfectly happy with that arrangement.  So much so, that when children are dropped off for Sunday School, there is usually a great deal of separation anxiety and tears and grasping onto necks and arms and legs for fear that the bond between them and their parents will be forever broken.  That is how our prayer life with God is supposed to be.  We see ourselves as an extension of Him.  We cling to Him for dear life.

God is not called "Father" for nothing.  No one really calls their dad, "Father" anymore, and the thought of calling God "Dad," or "Daddy," sounds too casual and almost silly.  But set aside the word for a moment and think instead of what a child senses when their very loving and caring father is right close by, strong and protecting. Children care nothing about their parent's bank account, or bills, or mortgage.  All they know is that they are safe and cared for.  When they need to talk, their dad stops what he's doing, listens, laughs, jokes with them and lovingly reminds them to finish their dinner and clean up their toys.

They feel strong arms carrying them upstairs to bed whenever they are too tired or sick.  They smell his cologne, they hear his heartbeat as they lay their heads on his chest when he reads them a story.  They play with his pens at his desk and draw rocket-ships or fairy castles or flowers while he's on the phone talking important grown-up talk to those people he's always talking to after work. He is the strongest and smartest and biggest person they know.  He's scary when he's angry, but most of the time he's funny and kind and gentle, and he always, always loves them and is always, always there for them.

As children grow in a healthy and happy home environment, they continue to feel the constant urge to tell their parents anything new that they are going through or learning about.  They want advice, and they want to hear the approval of their dad's voice and see the joy in his eyes when they have done well.  They yearn for his comfort when they have failed, and though they know he's disappointed, they also know that he believes in them to get back up and try again.

Human children eventually outgrow that need for their parent's constant approval.  But spiritual children, born of God, never do.  Those who are born of God run to Him all of their lives.  They throw their arms around Him, dialogue with Him, listen closely to Him, and more than anything obey Him because they trust Him.

Prayer for those not yet born of His Spirit, is a burden, a task to perform.  They run out of words to say, and fall asleep when they try.  For those who just claim to believe in God but have not real relationship with Him, prayer feels like a waste of time.  But for those who really know their Father, prayer is like the air they breathe.  They are hopelessly  dependent on their Father who loves them and wants a deep and rich relationship with them.  They can actually sense His laughter, His approval, His comfort and His discipline when they come to Him.

If your prayer experience hasn't reached that level of closeness with God, you have so much to look forward to.  But this kind of closeness comes at a cost.  It only happens to those who die to their flesh, and give up control over themselves and all that they value.  They hand control over to God, even before they have felt anything.  They have risked it all to find Him.  Don't stop seeking and reaching out to Him until you have truly found your Father.  You'll know when prayer becomes a joy instead of an obligation, and the answers to those prayers come as freely as the trust you place in Him.  

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