Prayer: It Kind of IS About You.Posted: November 21, 2013
From Emma Liddle
I grew up in a home that prayed.
My mom prayed for me every day before I went to the bus stop for school. My dad prayed before every meal. We prayed before we went to bed. It was what we did. And it was a good practice for me to get into. It was good to be in a home where prayer was important, where we talked to God, even as children.
And I knew about prayer.
I remember being in Sunday school, and having my teacher (fun fact: his name was Mr. Wombat, which is awesome) tell us that when we pray, we bow our heads and fold our hands because we need to make ourselves small, because we need to show respect to God. Prayer is not about us, but about God and how big he is.
There’s nothing wrong with this, technically. It’s not great to be in the practice of praying like: “Hi God. So, I could talk about how great you are, but I’m actually more interested in me and how awesome I am. So that’s what’s on the table for today. Me, me, me.” I don’t recommend this kind of prayer life.
But I also don’t recommend the kind of prayer life that removes the self from the act of prayer. And I think I was kind of in the habit of doing that. I think I was in the habit of removing myself from prayer, and in doing so, attempting to hold onto my life and my desires, playing a weird kind of nihilistic game of keep-away with God.
It looks kind of like this:
“Dear God: You are an awesome and mighty God. Thank you for [insert: Jesus, my husband, BBQ from BT’s Smokehouse, a roof over my head, nature’s beauty, mp3’s, etc.]. I have needs and desires, I have concerns and sometimes everything looks like it’s terrible, and stuff needs to get fixed… Okay, thanks, Amen.”*
*Subtext: “It looks like you’re not very interested in those last few things, and you might not do much about them anyway, so I won’t bother you with that, and just hold onto them.”
Ostensibly, this was me-not-making-it-about-me. Really, it was me being afraid and distrustful.
I heart C.S. Lewis, and this week was the 50th anniversary of his death, so I was thinking about him this week anyway, and figured he might have something to say about our message series theme of Courage, and he did. (Of course, right? See above quote-pic). And I think this quote has a lot to do with my prayer life as it was: I probably would say I trusted God, and that it’s good to surrender things to him, but when it came to prayer, which is where I would put these things into practice, where I’d be tested on whether or not I could do that, practice those essential virtues of trusting God, accepting his grace, and surrendering to him, I’d spiritually balk.
But, as it happens, out of desperation, I did ask this from God: “I want things to change. Something has to change.” And this, at least, was answered.
God pushed me into a few situations where I had to put those virtues to the test, and the only way through that was to pray courageously: I had to surrender people I love, all kinds of dreams for the future, security and certainty; essentially, I had to let go of my death-grip on my life.
And this, as it turns out, requires courage. I had to step up, become active and actively pursue God, and that made prayer about me. To grab another C.S. Lewis quote:
I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God- it changes me.
And that’s the way God wants it. He doesn’t need us, and our prayers don’t change him. I know from the message on Sunday that the Bible tells us that God changed his mind because of Joshua’s prayer, but this step, Joshua’s virtuous trust in God and his power didn’t make God more powerful. But God made the sun stand still because Joshua’s virtues were put to the test, and he prayed courageously. It was about Joshua, not about God.
We would all do well to follow Joshua’s lead.