As I’ve said before, I have a high school senior this year. As time draws near for her graduation, and her eventual departure from my house (sniff!), my wife and I feel a profound sense of urgency to try to give her all those life lessons we frankly can’t really remember whether we’ve taught her. And, while I’m sure my daughter is delighted to be the unwitting victim of the parenting equivalent of a late-night cram session, perhaps you and your children can be the beneficiary of some of the discussions we’re having in our house, as you enjoy the calmer confines of the ordinary tilt-o-wheel of crazy that is family life in 21st century America.
At my house, we’re talking a lot about prayer. We’re praying like crazy for our kids, and we’re trying to help them see that prayer isn’t just a “wouldn’t it be nice if;” instead, as Oswald Sanders says, it’s the Christian’s “vital breath and native air.” Here are three of the things we’re all trying to learn about prayer at my house:
1. Prayer is hard, because our flesh resists it; it tells us we don’t need it, that we don’t have the time for it, that we have more important things to do, that we can accomplish more if we do it ourselves. In short, that’s pride, eating us away from the inside, like spiritual cancer.
2. Strong Christians do pray more, but they pray because they realize how weak they are. Weakness is the channel that allows us to access grace. When you think you can do it, when you can make yourself right through your own efforts, you don’t need God. Prayer for you is an add-on, because Jesus is an add-on. As we mature as Christians, we see more and more of our sinful natures. The person who knows his restless heart, his tendency to compare himself with others, who hates how jealous he feels of others, and how easy the world can get hold of him: that person distrusts himself. He sees the same struggles in others, too. Nobody really has it together. It’s all too much for him. As a result, he cries out to God in prayer. That person needs Jesus. That person needs prayer. He realizes he can do nothing without God. If this isn’t you right now, be patient. Life has a remarkable way of humbling you. But, remember what I’m saying to you now, when hard times come and you’re laid low. Don’t use that opportunity as a chance to be bitter, but to humbly cry out to God in prayer.
3. Life is about, in part (but, mostly), preparing you for eternity. Life makes so much more sense when you realize that, when you realize that you are created to live and work and play with resurrected physical bodies in the New Jerusalem, and that your life here is to be on mission, to draw others to Christ, to cultivate and create culture that glorifies God and shows other people how things can and will be when Christ returns, and to prepare you for that future life. You have to be able to “get up on the balcony”, to zoom out and look at your present circumstances and all of life, not only from a current perspective, but from an eternal one.
With this in mind, it probably makes more sense to you when I say that God cares more about you and your heart then answering your immediate prayer requests. His purpose is His glory and your eternal good, more so than simply what you would wish to be done at that moment. This is good news, because it means that God loves you and wants your heart, rather than just to be a waiter or genie or something. He wants a relationship with you.
Next time, I will share with you the other things we’re all trying to learn about prayer at my house which include some tough topics such as why God doesn’t always answer prayers right away and remembering sometimes the answer to our prayer is “no.”