It's a fuzzy thing sometimes.
We all know what it is... but when asked to explain it, or what it's purpose is, or why we need to pray... well, there isn't always a clear cut answer.
I know people who pray all the time, but it is always popcorn type prayers, you know? The kind of prayer where you just ask God real quick to do something, say amen, and then just move on.
There is nothing really wrong with it, in fact for new believers or people who have been struggling in their faith, I encourage starting there. My problem with it is that I just don't ever see Jesus do that kind of thing.
And hey. I am guilty of it.
Treating God like a great grandpa who HAS to give me what I want, or some magic genie, or wizard in the sky whose only purpose is to serve at my beck and call.
I just don't see Jesus living or praying like that.
When I approach God, I often to try to persuade Him that I am worthy of something or that He should act on my behalf. But there is no reason God should act on our behalf—none is worthy of His intercession.
When we pray, we often need a change in focus.
Ultimately, it’s not about our rightness or goodness; it’s about His. It’s about what He can do, who He is, and why we know He can do something about the situation we’re in. We should still be honest and open with God, telling Him how we really feel (even though He already knows), but instead of focusing on our own righteousness, we should focus on God and what He’s already done for us.
Jesus did this. He got up early, he stayed up late, he took breaks in the middle of His BUSY day and devoted that time to His Father... Our Father.
When I think of what Jesus must have been praying for during those times I imagine He was just talking about His day, telling God all of the things He had the opportunity to do, and thanking Him for those opportunities. I imagine He had a few personal requests every now and then (which is so weird... God asking God for help... But it is so beautiful isn't it? The true humanity of Christ flows from those moments.), but in the end I think He was praying just to be with God. He slowed down. He stopped. He paused to breathe. He took in the grandeur of the goodness of His Father (and Himself).
He took a divine break to rest in the company of love.
The love of His Father for Him, the love of the Spirit for Him, His love for His Father, His love for His Spirit, the love He had for the people He lived among, the love that can be seen within the smallest of things... like a bird feeding a worm to her babies.
Prayer really is that after all isn't it?
Taking a divine break to rest in the company of love?
When I shift my attention to God and His goodness, many of my previous concerns fade. Before I even begin to pray, gratitude reminds me of God’s care and provision for me, allowing me to move from what I think matters to what matters to God.
Throughout the Bible, we see models of thankful prayers that emphasize God’s character. In the book of Nehemiah, the priestly group descended from Pethahiah (1 Chr 24:16) proclaims: “Stand up, bless Yahweh your God from everlasting until everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name that is being exalted above all blessing and praise! ‘You alone are Yahweh. You alone have made the heavens, the heavens of the heavens, and all of their army, the earth and all that is in it, the waters and all that is in them. You give life to all of them, and the army of the heavens worship you’ ” (Neh 9:5–6).
The people go on to recite God’s history of caring for them, focusing on His goodness and reminding themselves of His faithfulness when they (as a whole) had failed Him (Neh 9:7–37; compare Psa 111). They end their sermon with an agreement to honor God. They move from thankfulness, to God’s story, to agreeing to be part of His work.
By focusing on God, their attention shifts from ordinary concerns (Neh 7–8) to how they will respond to God. It’s this shift in focus that ultimately leads to righteousness. We also see this progression in Psa 112: the path of the righteous is marked by blessing God and acknowledging His work (Psa 112:1–2). After all, recognizing God is the solution to most of our problems.
This week... would you join me in taking a break from the chaos of life, and rest in the company of love. The love of others, and the love of God for the world.
“Turn around and believe that the good news that we are loved is better than we ever dared hope."