“Dear God, thank you for making my loose tooth not hurt. I don’t know if that was you that did that, but Thank You.” My 7 year old had been praying about her loose tooth for days, worried that it would hurt when it fell out. My wife and I prayed with her each night. I don’t know what was going on in my wife’s head, but my head was full of thoughts other than the actual prayer.
“Compared to COVID-19 and other global scale events, this request seems small.”
“If the tooth is ready to fall out anyways, it probably wouldn’t hurt.”
“Some Advil may help.”
But I was amazed at Chloe’s prayer when her tooth didn’t hurt. She didn’t share my flat, humdrum attitude–the same attitude I have when I look at the stars, or watch ants, or pop some store-bought remedy to whatever is causing me discomfort.
For Chloe there was a mix of mystery, trust and gratitude wrapped up in her response.
I have started to read Paul Miller’s A Praying Life. I want to go on this journey with you through this blog. And I would love to hear your thoughts. You can go to the Contact Page on this Website to let us know how you are processing the book along with me.
Chapter One is entitled “What Good Does It Do?”
Paul Miller calls American culture, “The hardest place in the world to learn how to pray.” Often we feel like we have the money (or credit cards), talent, or technology to get us through anything we need. In essence, it is difficult to feel a real crisis of need that we feel powerless and resourceless to change, so we begin to wonder if prayer really is necessary or just something I “should” do.
I believe the busyness and the pace of life in our culture is one of the things that feeds our idea that prayer isn’t really that necessary. When was the last time our routines allowed us to be silent and still? When do we have time to sit in a prayer request to God and let Him work in His timing? It is faster and easier to throw some money or some extra work at something than to wait on prayer. Google an answer. Buy something to patch the hole and get it in 2 days (at the latest). Even our still moments are filled with music or multitasking.
My 7 year old hates pain. She will blow through box after box of Band Aids to cover over every trace of a boo boo she has gotten in the past 10 days. Even these resources are not her own. When mom and dad run out of bandaids, she can’t go buy more. She doesn’t know or have access to the host of sprays, pills, and patches that help with pain from the store. Other than a Leapster kids game watch, she owns no technology. She had nowhere to go with her painful tooth except prayer.
The reality that I am learning from Miller’s book is that neither do I. There may be little things that I can throw talent, treasure and technology at, but not the things that really matter. Not for the things that keep me up at night.
How will my kids turn out? Will they succeed and will they walk with Jesus for a lifetime?
Will Elevate Hope Centennial accomplish what we set out to do in our community? Will we connect people to the hope of Jesus? Are people growing in faith? Will we be able to open our doors again for worship?
Why can’t I seem to change in areas that I want to change?
For all of these there is a book, a system, or a seminar that promises to give me the results I want. But I don’t just want results. I want a relationship. And that is what Chloe understood. That prayer is a conversation with a personal being. A real relationship. She was ok with the mystery that threatens to wreck my faith sometimes. “If I didn’t pray this, would it have happened anyway?” “What if God doesn’t answer, maybe that means He doesn’t exist.” “Why pray about this when I can solve it myself?”
Jesus asks us to be like little children in Matthew 18:3. A 7 year old will pray like a child because she is a child. She will have faith that her Father has the resources to help. She will have faith that He is good and that the answer to her prayer is possible. She doesn’t know that God created the propionic acid that ibuprofen comes from, so even when Advil provides relief, that relief is from God. She doesn’t say the right words or even have a written out theology of prayer. For her, it is a relationship that she has with a God who hears her. And if He hears her, she is confident that He will provide what she asks. (1 John 5:14 ). When her tooth still hurt, she prayed again. And again. She didn’t feel selfish for asking, or try to pray a formula that praises God first, then thanks Him, then finally asks for what she wants. She just gushed out her need before God in the helpless state of a child who had no other resources.
I am not sure what I am learning in all of that. But I know that I want the faith that my 7 year old has. I want to pray like she does. I want to slow down and wait for God’s answer, and pray every night until He gives me something. I want to realize that my own resources can’t help me. And when I get there, I think I will be a lot closer to God’s heart in prayer than I am right now.