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When my daughter was a little girl, she would from time to time come to me with a problem, or something that was frightening her, or pretty much anything that was bothering her. Often she was not able to express herself clearly and succinctly, and other times she would just want to talk.
There were times when it was obvious to me that she was troubled or confused, and she would just crawl up in my lap.
But this would just not do! I was frustrated and sometimes irritated with her for her lack of articulation, and at other times I would yawn and roll my eyes when she was having trouble putting her worries and concerns into an organized presentation.
So I schooled her in how to talk to me. We practiced organizing her thoughts before she approached me. We even developed some formulas for her to use. And if all that failed, I gave her a couple of pre-prepared speeches to memorize.
If she needed anything from me, she learned to present her requests in an organized and formal way – that is, if she wanted to get what she was asking for. And, she was forbidden to just crawl up in my lap until she figured out how to communicate better.
Now, is there any chance any of this is true? Would any normal, loving father or mother respond to their little child in this manner? Of course not! As Jesus observed,
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matt. 7:9-11)
But do we not think this way when it comes to our own prayer life? Do we not fret over things like, “Am I doing it right? Am I saying the right things the right way?” Read the absurd example above again – please – and think in terms of you approaching your loving Heavenly Father under these circumstances. Let me assure you, it would never happen.
Actually, let Jesus assure you:
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matt. 19:14)
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 18:1-4)
Approaching my Heavenly Father as a little boy has revolutionized my prayer life. I try to picture myself as a little child going to my Father, whom I see looking at me with love and affection. If Satan tries to insert the image of an irritated, judgmental and condemning God, I chase that image right out of my head. Because it is a lie.
Try this approach to your prayers. Really, try it! He is your loving Heavenly Father, you know. He is happy with you just sitting in his lap and being with him. I know, I know, you are a grown-up and too smart and too mature and too old for something as silly as this. But looking back over my spiritual journey, I cannot see where being a grown-up and smart and too old for something new has ever benefited me.
May you learn to relax and see yourself as a loved and adored child, as you spend time with your gracious, compassionate, and loving Heavenly Father.