Brenda and I were talking about prayer last night and I made the point that for many Christians, prayer is part of a success-formula for way too many Christians. She agreed and added that it’s been that way for decades. I hate to admit it, but I think she’s right.
She went back to her book and I thought about prayer some more as I fell asleep and she read some more. I’ve been convinced for quite a while now that prayer really shouldn’t be about what, it should grow out of WHO. That’s bad grammar, I know. But it might stick better if it makes you wince for more two reasons instead of one.
Prayer is vitally important, ’tis true,
But even more important than prayer, is Who.
I alluded to this concept a while back in my post First Love. Take a look if you’d like, and add those thoughts, though not directed specifically toward prayer, to the mix.
If you’ve ever been IN LOVE (better yet, if you are) you know how it goes. Your desire is for the one you love. The cafe’ owner has to apologetically tell you he’s closing up and going home to get some sleep so you’ll finally leave. You take the long way home, even going out of your way toward nothing in particular, because you’re loving the conversation and don’t want pulling in the driveway to bring it to a halt. I do this all the time. When we get home duty interrupts. There are two (really cute) dogs to tend to. To-do items on the white board on the fridge vie for me-first honors. The bills nudge me “don’t wait too long”. My flowers lure me back outdoors to be with them. Mayberry calls Brenda upstairs. So I stall when I can. Tonight’s our date night and I’ll probably do it again this week. Probably find something to do together, even if it isn’t all that important, just so we can be together and talk. Being in love does that to you.
We sing a lot of songs about being in love with or loving our Savior. I understand the “love is a decision / love is something you do” concept. But it seems to me that prayer’s best-est motivation (is that a word?) grows out of being head-over-heels in love with the Shepherd of my soul. I want to talk to him as my day progresses.
“Beautiful colors, this morning, Lord, Thank You.”
“Today’s looking like a challenge. Would you help me? What should I do first?”
“Can I ask You, how should I respond to that? I wanna hit ‘im. What do YOU suggest?”
“She’s thinking about me. Thanks, Lord.”
“There’s more month at the end of this check than there should be. Lord, I need some wisdom. Would you provide somehow? You have resources I know nothing about.”
“What a neat kid – whodda thunk it?” (happens rarely between ages 14 and 19, but it DOES happen) :-Þ
“Who’s idea was the giraffe? and the tapir? What creativity!”
“This is just what I need. Thanks for your written Word.”
When I (when we) know He loves me, enough to send His only Son to die on my behalf so the relationship could be restored to how He intended it to be, it’s the easiest thing in the world to move through life with Him.
So why don’t we? I have a theory. I believe the enemy has figured out that if he can take our eyes of the Master, divert our attention from Him, even to a thing like prayer, and make it an integer in a success formula, he knows he’ll have thwarted the Master’s plan at least some. If he can convince us it’s something we do at a special time in a special place, and nowhere else, then load our calendars with activity that make that impractical or impossible – he wins. If he can cool our passion so talking with God is good but not vital – he wins.
I say let’s fall in love again. Or grow back into it. It takes effort to stay in love. Anyone who’s more than seven or eight months beyond their wedding day knows how true that is. But God is (and I say this reverently) … God is a flawless lover. Here’s proof from John’s first letter.
“…we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love.” (1 Jn. 4.16)
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 Jn 3.1)
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him… (1 Jn 4.9)
When we’re “head over heels” in love with Him, we’ll tell Him everything. We’ll not try to tell Him how to do things, rather we’ll ask how He’d like us to do things – if He wants us to do them at all (it may please Him to solve the problem for us and watch us smile, it may be that He wants us simply to know He’s with us as we inch forward).
When we sing “You are my All in All” He’ll smile because He knows we’re sincere. When church is over and we talk with our friends and family, He’ll be part of the conversation. When we walk to the car or toward home, He’ll walk with us. When things go wrong during the week, He’ll be right there, ready to hear our first response to the disappointment. We’ll respect Who He is, naturally, but we will tell him freely what we’re thinking and feeling, knowing He hears, understands, and that He may choose to intervene.
I learned these lessons years ago, then managed to move away from them over time (the enemy had something to do with that slow-cool, I’m sure) and re-learned them a while back from a 17th century cook by the name of Richard Lawrence. Someone has graciously transcribed his letters to a young protege’ and posted them so we can benefit from them some 400 years later. If you’re up to wading through some old language, reading slowly and thinking even more than you read, you’ll perhaps enjoy this also. I don’t agree with everything he says (shoot, I don’t agree with everything I say sometimes) but I certainly appreciate his outlook on God’s constant, unwavering presence with us and the benefits of living in the awareness that it’s true. Print your own copy if you like, it’s free. See what a delight it is for a 21st century Christian to learn from someone who lived and served a long time ago.
The Practice of the Presence of God – It’ll make a difference in our prayer life. Count on it. Maybe THE difference. I believe he had his finger on prayer’s best motiviation. See what you think.