Praying like a child

a child praying

Paul E. Miller, in his book  A Praying Life:

As you develop your relationship with your heavenly Father, you’ll change. You’ll discover nests of cynicism, pride, and self-will in your heart. You will be unmasked. None of us likes being exposed. We have an allergic reaction to dependency, but this is the state of the heart most necessary for a praying life. A needy heart is a praying heart. Dependency is the heartbeat of prayer.

So when it starts to get uncomfortable, don’t pull back from God. He is just starting to work. Be patient.

On more than one occasion, Jesus tells his disciples to  become like little children…. Jesus wants us to be without pretense when we come to him in prayer. Instead, we often try to be something we aren’t. We begin by concentrating on God, but almost immediately our minds wander off… The problems of the day push out our well-intentioned resolve to be spiritual…. We know that prayer isn’t supposed to be like this, so we give up in despair….

What’s the problem? We’re trying to be spiritual, to get it right. We know we don’t need to clean up our act in order to become a Christian, but when it comes to praying, we forget that. We, like adults, try to fix ourselves up. In contrast, Jesus wants us to come to him like little children, just as we are.

The difficulty in coming just as we are is that we are messy. And prayer makes it worse. When we slow down to pray, we are immediately confronted with how unspiritual we are, with how difficult it is to concentrate on God…. Nothing exposes our selfishness and spiritual powerlessness like prayer.

He tells about the first time his physically and mentally challenged daughter took her first steps at the age of three, and how the whole family celebrated.

We screamed; we yelled; we jumped up and down….

This isn’t just a random observation about how parents respond to little children. This is the gospel, the welcoming heart of God. God also cheers when we come to him with our wobbling, unsteady prayers. Jesus did not say, ‘Come to me, all you who have learned how to concentrate in prayer, whose minds no longer wander, and I will give you rest.’ No, Jesus opens his arms to his needy children and says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.’ (Matthew 1128). The criteria for coming to Jesus is weariness. Come overwhelmed with life. Come with your wandering mind. Come messy.

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