When three-year-old Henry wakes up in the morning, he make a beeline for his parents’ bedroom and jumps in bed with them. It would never occur to our grandson that his dad or mom would reject him. He totally trusts them.
He is so confident of their warm, receptive love he doesn’t hesitate to ask them for anything.
Usually, they delight to grant his request, but sometimes, it’s not healthy or safe to do so. He doesn’t always understand when they fail to provide what he asks for. But they know what’s best. And he trusts them.
In one sense, that’s how God wants us to come to him–as a little child approaches his father. We are invited to “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). The key to this kind of prayer is a trust relationship with our Father, Abba, who is in the heavens. Sensing our genuine need (and thus our dependence) is also key.
Trust is essential for productive prayer. Our leader, Jesus, showed us what that looked like. He spent lots of time with his Father. He was surrendered to his Father’s will. Imagine the power of a loving, trusting relationship with God like that!
But many Christians question if God is trustworthy. I’ve heard friends in Bible studies ask “Did God really mean that?” Echoes of the oldest question in history: “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1) I’ve recently realized that I’m so used to doubting others–political candidates, entertainers, financial leaders, lawyers, news anchors– sometimes I’m also doubting God! This poses a problem when I try to pray, because the cynicism within makes me suspect God won’t answer my prayers anyway, so why bother.
In his outstanding book, A Praying Life, Paul E. Miller describes how cynicism is the spirit of our age. He says, “I mean it is an influence, a tone that permeates our culture, one of the master temptations of our age.”
It’s almost as if we Americans are marinated in cynicism.
But when Jesus teaches his followers to pray, he tells us to first focus on God’s wonderful character. Next, he leads us to submit to God’s rule and reign in our lives, just as he himself did. Jesus then prompts us to ask for what we need today, trusting God for tomorrow. Because it’s important to keep our relationship with God strong, we need to regularly ask his forgiveness. And we need to forgive others! If we refuse, it will hinder our prayers. But If we keep short accounts with God, we know that he forgives us and welcomes our prayers. Next, he tells us to seek God’s direction, trusting him to guide us in right paths. Finally, we are to request our Father’s protection from the evil one (who wants us to not pray in the first place)!
All of this is predicated on a trusting relationship with our wonderful heavenly Father who has adopted us into his family. Let’s repent of any cynicism that threatens our relationship and robs us of our communication with Him. If we’re willing, we too can trust in God–and pray like Jesus.