Praying like a Child

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Mar 292015
 

Recently I arrived at my sister’s house just as my niece and nephews were about to go to bed, and immediately the kids exclaimed they wanted me to tuck them in. So as they said good night to their parents and shuffled off to their beds, I tucked in and prayed with each one. Now the boys pray themselves while I hold their hand and bow my head, but my three year old niece often wants whoever is tucking her in to pray. So I asked if she wanted to pray, or wanted me to, and she requested I be the one to pray. I prayed, kissed her good night, and left her to go to sleep.

It was not until a couple of days later that I realized a detail about the way I had prayed with her that night. I had prayed from her point of view. I had prayed for “mommy and daddy” in speaking of her parents, and “grandma and papa” in referring to my parents. This realization brought to mind how the Holy Spirit prays for us when we do not have the words.

“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)

When I am too weak and worn to know what to pray, I can just humbly say that to Jesus in prayer and I know the Holy Spirit intercedes on my behalf. When I am too brokenhearted to even form that many words, Christ knows my heart and I can just go to Him and cry. Even when I am so elated and in awe of something He has done in my life, and I can only get out a thank you, He knows the words of my heart.

“About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.  So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 18:1-4 (NLT)

“But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.” Galatians 4:4-7

John MacArthur wrote, “Abba is a diminutive of the Aramaic word for father. It was a term of endearment used by young children of their fathers and could be translated to “daddy” or “papa”. The Holy Spirit brings us into a personal, intimate relationship with our heavenly Father, whom we may approach at any time and under any circumstance, knowing that He always hears us and lovingly cares for us, because we are truly His own.”

Much like my niece trusted me to go to God in prayer on her behalf, God wants us to go to Him as a child goes to a loving father. What does an intimate and personal relationship with the Father through the Holy Spirit look like? Do you get the picture of a child running to its father, climbing into his lap and throwing their arms around his neck while burying their head in his shoulder? In either instance of elation or brokenness this illustration applies, there are only changes the child’s emotion, not the relationship to the father.

Reflections

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Feb 022013
 

Two years ago, this week, I was surrounded by darkness, I was in a fog of hopelessness and had to force myself to get out of bed. Previous to that week, although I was saved, my relationship with Jesus was on my terms and therefore not what it should be. I had to be in control, and was unyielding to His sovereignty over my life. In the past I have used the analogy that I was like a house, that each wall had been demolished and rebuilt one at a time as I would go through a trial and reluctantly, and unhappily, give that area over to Christ. But my foundation was still just as cracked and unstable as when I started. He wasn’t my foundation, as I had made that my independence and my delusion of control.

Yet I knew something needed to change. That Christmas Eve I reflected on why I loved the Christmas season so much since becoming a Christian. Due to family being away or sick, I spent the evening by myself attending my church candlelight service and then watching Jesus of Nazareth by the lights of my Christmas tree. It gave me time to think. I realized that the reason I loved the Christmas season so much was because I had made Jesus the focus of my life in some aspects during that time. I was more intentional about my relationship with Him, although I now see how I was placing it on my terms. My Christmas tree had been decorated with ornaments that either told something about Jesus, about myself, or about my relationship with Jesus, therefore I decided I was keeping my tree up for the entire year as a reminder to stay focused on Him. It seems silly now, but I see how it was my independent and desperate attempt to hold on to even a little of that Christmas feeling. I wanted more of Him, I just didn’t know how to get it, and still maintain control.

Clearly, Jesus’ plan to keep my focus on Him was very different than mine. At the time, I would have not said it was superior to my way, as I was in the depths of despair, but now I see His faithfulness and goodness in it. I had to be broken. I had to be demolished down to my cracked and unstable foundation so that I could be rebuilt on Him.

While I do recount that time in a writing project that is almost complete (and  God-willing will be available in some form this year), let me just explain that it wasn’t solely the catalyst event that broke me. It was in my heart wanting more of Jesus and because of the event, and the lies the enemy was feeding me about it, feeling rejected and unloved by God. The lie was that Christ had never wanted me, never loved me, and I had deluded myself into believing He did or ever could, that this event showed His not protecting me, His indifference to me. I was beat down. I was broken. This time of being at the bottom of the pit, thankfully, only lasted a week before God broke through with His truth and showed the lies for what they were. Then it was a slow climb out of the pit, but then I was willing to start climbing. I could muster some strength after that.

Rose Marie Miller writes, in Nothing is Impossible with God, “Nothing is impossible with God. I had always heard this, but for a long time it didn’t seem true for me. For much of my life kept God at a distance, building walls of self-protection and self-reliance. I said I was a Christian, but my life said, “I can manage without God.” When crises came, the walls went higher. But there came a day when building walls did not work and I was left with, “I don’t believe God exists, or if He does exist, He is a dark cloud over my life- a cloud of fear, guilt, condemnation, and loneliness.” Into this dark cloud God spoke, not with an audible voice, but with life-giving words.”

I love this passage of her writing because it is like she is telling my story. The last two years during this anniversary, if you will, I have reflected back to what Jesus has done in my life since then. It is hard to believe how He has changed my life since that time, the way He has produced growth through relationship with Him. I will always be a work in progress, but I can see areas where He has changed my heart for what breaks His, I can see how He truly is my foundation now, and I can see how He has used His fruit in my life to direct me to His plan for my life. His faithfulness was there even when I was not faithful and tried to keep him at arms-length. His goodness was there even in allowing events to take place that would break me and ultimately bring me closer to Him. I can see how He allowed only enough to do what was necessary, not more than enough as discipline of which I deserved.

I do not reflect back every year to live in the past, but instead to reflect back in worship of His character and His love.