One thing I get wrong about prayer: I view it as transactional, not relational.
Recently, I saw this in a new light, and learned a new dimension to my amazing God.
It also showed me something about myself as a father of boys.
I often see prayer as my celestial vending machine. I stride up, insert requests into the slot, and wait for God’s answer to drop into the bin. Is this because I’m human? American?
This is far from an ideal prayer posture. God wants to hear my requests (Phil 4:6), and Jesus tells us to boldly ask (Luke 11:9). However, God is not a short order cook waiting to dole out today’s blessing du jour.
If you are like me, you fall into this pattern from time to time. Well, if you’re really like me, you only occasionally fall out of this pattern.
Let’s put it in focus. Consider a close relation. Your spouse, children, or earthly parents maybe. Imagine meeting this individual for lunch. They arrived first and snagged a table.
You stroll up, sit down and start in, “Thanks for coming. What I want from you is…” You go down the list: your boss, wife, kids, that upcoming surgery. It’s one problem after another. And, you have a remedy in mind, which you also make clear.
Recently, I was in a challenging mental place. Disappointed in several things, and unsure what remedy - if any - was in order. I was burdened.
One morning I poured out my heart on paper (on screen actually, love my iPad). I just wrote to God and talked with Him about my situation. I shared my challenges, areas where I felt weighed down.
But, I had a different perspective. I wasn’t asking Him actually to do anything, only to hear me out. I envisioned Him listening across the table as if we were meeting at Starbucks. He nodded, occasionally sipped His coffee. He didn’t fix anything. More interestingly, I didn’t really mind.
I just wanted Him to hear me. Then it hit me. A dimension of prayer I rarely appreciate: connecting. Connecting with a loving father who wants my best and can handle my confusion and frustration. He is delighted to serve me, and sometimes that means just being a listening ear.
This made me think. As a father, am I effective at doing this with my boys? Do I ever simply listen to my boys with empathy? Or, am I always preparing to respond, correct, or educate?
What would happen if we were intentional fathers who cultivated this skill? What if we became great at listening to our children, letting them share their hearts?
I bet we would hear new things and build stronger relationships with our boys.
Let's give it a try.