The Father’s Lap
“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” - Psalms 46:10 (ESV)
Earlier this week I was in our kitchen preparing for dinner while my children had already sat down at the table with their meals. As they commenced with their usual round of dinner blessings, I took notice of a situation that has been unfolding for some time. Our oldest boy solemnly began his blessing out loud as usual, then our middle son chimed in and began saying his own blessing just a little louder and a lot faster than the first prayer. The race was on! Finally, our youngest son added his version of the blessing, which was being shouted and was for all intensive purposes incoherent. It was almost as if there was a prayer competition going on to see who could be the first one done. Perhaps they believed that if they prayed the fastest and loudest, their prayer would be the one most pleasing to God. After the prayer chaos was complete, I asked my kids if they thought God heard or understood them. They all agreed that He did, which I could not deny. Then I asked them if they needed to shout or talk fast for God to hear them? No… they answered. I asked them if they needed to compete for God to hear them? No reply…
After assigning a blessing roster to alleviate the need for a future prayer competition, I began to feel a little self-conscious. I thought about all of the “substandard” prayers that I have offered to God in my life. I started wondering if God was happy about the way I handled that situation given my own prayer record.
Oh yeah, we all know these prayers. These are the prayers we fire off when we’re in a hurry and are burdened by the “requirement” to bless the meal “Good Bread, Good Meat, Good God, Lets Eat.” Perhaps we’ve experienced the following gasp of desperation, you know…the “If you help me out of this pinch just one last time God, I’ll never do _______ again” prayer? What about the times we are praying for touchdowns more fervently than for healing or for the needs of others? Then there are my personal favorites, the countless unfinished prayers that I’ve uttered as I’ve drifted off to sleep.
I could totally imagine God looking at me the way I saw my children, wanting me to just slow down and start letting my prayers flow from my heart instead of from a place of obligation, desperation or greedy competition.
Is God grading us by our prayers and how we pray? No, he loves us and loves all of our communication with him.
Should we try to make our prayers more intentional and purposeful? Absolutely! A former pastor of mine once perfectly described what this time should look like… He called it, “taking time to curl up on your Daddy’s lap to talk to him about all your concerns and desires.” He said, “Do you remember when you were a kid? When you had the time to be on your Daddy’s lap, nothing else mattered. You were totally content just being where you were at and happy that you have your Father’s undivided attention because he was so important to you!” That message really made me start to think about my prayer time differently. We know to pray for the things that are close to the heart of the Father when we are “on His lap.” Now that is the type of prayer I want to model for my kids!
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6 & 7 (ESV)
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” - Romans 8:26 & 27 (ESV)
So, if there is one thing about prayer that fasting has made apparent to me, it is that if we aren’t serious about making prayer intentional, coherent, focused, determined, reflexive and at times a well-organized event, it never will be. Another thing I’ve noticed is that in a fast, our prayer time will be contended for by all the stresses and concerns of life. Our to-do lists have not taken a vacation, so we will have to learn how to look past some of those things and focus on the quality of our prayer time. We might actually have to battle harder now to create solid prayer space in our schedules. Beware of busyness, distraction and clutter. They are the great prayer neutralizers!!!
“Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray. O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” – Psalms 5:2 & 3 (ESV)
Daniel provides a great example in Scripture of someone with an intentional and fearless commitment to prayer. Daniel delighted in regularly praying three times a day, and even did so after a decree was passed outlawing prayer to anyone other than the king. Even though it might cost him his life, Daniel would not waiver from his prayer life. How motivating!
“When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.” – Daniel 6:10 (ESV)
I pray that God helps all of us get to a place in our prayer lives where we can have the kind of desire and commitment modeled by Daniel. I firmly believe that our attitude towards prayer determines whether it is joy and a delight rather than a duty that I feel bad about not properly fulfilling. When prayer is a delight, it’s like a recess for our soul… more desire, less duty