When I Learned to Beg Like a Child - A Lesson in Prayer
My heart was racing. I was shaking. Tears were streaming down my face. Granted I was fasting, and four hours without food was enough to induce such a reaction. But this wasn’t (just) a blood sugar issue. Movie-style-flashback to six months before when I first read “A Praying Life: Connecting With God In A Distracting World” by Paul Miller. I love to read, and I often say, “This is the greatest book ever. You have to read it.” But I really mean it this time. THIS IS THE GREATEST BOOK EVER. YOU HAVE TO READ IT.
I started “A Praying Life” because I wanted to grow in prayer. As I read, I realized it wasn’t just my praying that needed to change. The way I viewed God needed to change. This book helped strip away the pretense of praying the right way (aka the self-righteous way) and re-introduced me to the great joy of just bringing my messy self before my Savior (“We know we don’t need to clean up our act in order to become a Christian, but when it comes to praying, we forget that.” -P.M. Good stuff, amiright?).
Multiple times while reading this book, I had to put it down and just cry my eyes out. The gospel is such extraordinary mercy. The fact that my loving Father invites me to come in my sin and helplessness was just too much to take in.
“A Praying Life” starts with Miller’s (aka the Bible's) encouragement to come before God as Father and approach him as a child (Mark 10:14-16, Matthew 18:2-4, Luke 10:21, Matthew 7:7-11).
“Let’s do a quick analysis on how little children ask.
-What do they ask for? Everything and anything. If they hear about Disneyland, they want to go there tomorrow. -How often do little children ask? Repeatedly. Over and over again. They wear us out. Sometimes we give in just to shut them up.-How do little children ask? Without guile. They just say what is on their minds. They have no awareness of what is appropriate or inappropriate.
Jesus tells us to watch little children if we want to learn how to ask in prayer.”
- Paul Miller
I have to think that when Jesus was addressing his disciples about the children, he was looking especially with an eye to all the moms who would eventually read His words. Moms know better than anyone the things kids ask for, and the ways they ask. In just the past few days, my kids have come to me “like little children” with the following requests:
- “Can I get a pet dragon?” (“Pet dragons aren’t real”) “What about a dog?” (“No”) “Okay, what about a puppy?” (...)
- “Can I have chips?” (“No”) “Why, because I just had popcorn?” (“Yes, that would be the reason”) Five minutes later: “Can I have chips…” Repeat.
- *While getting into bed* “Can we go to the water park?” (“Yeah, sometime.”) “No, I mean tonight” (“You’re going to bed now”) “So, can we?”
Moms, you don’t need this “childlike” concept explained to you. Pet dragons, potato chips, and water parks. You get it.
I had not been praying for my foster daughter in this childlike manner. For 18 months, I had been praying for this little girl in apologetic, unsure terms (“If it’s in her best interest for her to go home, then please let her go home...but if it’s in her best interest for her to stay, then please let her stay.”). My desire to constantly acknowledge God’s sovereignty and my uncertainty about what to even pray for had led me to praying weak prayers. I wasn’t sharing my heart. I wasn’t crying out to God. I wasn’t talking to my Father. My words were thought out, self-conscious, and rehearsed. I was coming like an adult.
Back to my current day sob-fest.
I got a call from my foster/soon-to-be-adopted daughter’s case worker. “There’s a problem with our case. The adoption may not happen.” I took out my Bible and prayer journal and began crying out to God. Then I put them down and began just crying. All of the pretense of the following 18 months was stripped away. I was curled up before my Father, begging like a child.
As I gave in to my childlike temper tantrum/prayer session, I discovered that as I began to really share my heart, God began to really change my heart. Instead of regurgitating rehearsed words, my prayers became declarations of the beautiful truths of God’s character. And I started to believe them. Instead of being so-afraid-of-asking-for-the-wrong-thing-that-I-ultimately-asked-for-nothing, my prayers became times of just telling my God what it was I really wanted. And I started to want what He wanted even more. Instead of carefully crafting my words, my prayers became a child’s begging. And I started to trust Him as my Father.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! - 1 John 3:1