I started reading a really good book a few months ago, which touches on the theme of prayer—how we consider prayer, how we approach God in prayer, how we live a transformed life of prayer. It’s called A Praying Life, by Paul Miller. Here a few thoughts from the book which have challenged me once again to be even more real with my heavenly Father:
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.” ~Matt. 11:28
The criteria for coming to Jesus is weariness…What does it feel like to be weary? You have trouble concentrating. The problems of the day are like claws in your brain. You feel pummeled by life. What does heavy-laden feel like? Same thing. You have so many problems you don’t even know where to start…Jesus wants you to come to Him that way!
Don’t try to get the prayer right; just tell God where you are and what’s on your mind. That’s what little children do. They come as they are, runny noses and all. Like the disciples, they just say what is on their minds…
Why is it so important to come to God just as you are? If you don’t, then you are artificial and unreal, like the Pharisees. Rarely did they tell Jesus directly what they were thinking. Jesus accused them of being hypocrites, of being masked actors with two faces…
The only way to come to God is by taking off any spiritual mask. The real you has to meet the real God. He is a person…Come overwhelmed with life. Come with a wandering mind. Come messy.”
Messy? God wants me to come messy? I confess I don’t like doing messy. I all too often want to come to God like a neatly-wrapped package, as if I were a present to Him! Besides not being a neatly-wrapped present, I’m like a present that’s broken before it’s taken out of the box, like a blender that won’t blend, and which should be returned to the store! I am constantly in need of God’s work of grace to fix me, put me back together again, and make something beautiful of my life.
Sometimes I forget that this is exactly how God wants me to come—needy, broken, empty-handed, and eager to receive His forgiveness, grace, and power.
I came to know the Lord Jesus as my Savior in just the way Miller recommends…empty-handed and pouring out my heart to Him like a little child. As a young person my life had been pretty messed up; there was brokenness everywhere. I don’t recall ever being able to run to my earthly father for comfort, a gentle word, or patient help. How incredibly alone and broken I felt!
As I entered my teen years, I became even more aware of how broken I was. I was desperate for God’s healing, forgiveness, love and help. He heard my cry for help, redeemed my life from the pit, and crowned me with lovingkindness:
“O LORD my God,
I cried to You for help, and You healed me.
O LORD, You have brought up my soul from Sheol;
You have kept me alive, that I would not go down to the pit.
Sing praise to the LORD, you His godly ones,
and give thanks to His holy name.” ~Psalm 30:2-4
Coming as Little Children
Despite how imperfectly our earthly fathers reflected the father-heart of God, our heavenly Father always wants us to come like little children, on whom He wants to lavish His abundant, transforming love.
God needs nothing from us; rather, He is an overflowing fountain of life to all who would come to Him through Jesus Christ. All the giving is done by Him, and all the receiving is done by us! Oh, how good He is to welcome us this way, with all our mess, all our doubt, and all our temptations to cling to the world’s trinkets when He’s offering us gold.
I may doubt sometimes that He really hears me. I might not like the fact that my prayers seem to meet at times (well, okay…OFTEN) with His silence. Yet I’m thankful that I can come as a child to my Father. The reality is He does hear His children when they cry to Him. We can trust Him to give us what is best for He alone truly knows what is best for us, and in His perfect wisdom and love will withhold no good thing from His child.
If you are His child, it is my hope that you will have this confidence. However messy your life is, however broken, depleted, or tired you are, come. Come and pour out your heart to God. He is ready to hear your cries for help and answer you.
“Let me hear in the morning of Your steadfast love, for in You I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul.” ~Psalm 143:8