Here's something I just wrote for our church's weekly newsletter:
Before Easter I wrote a couple of devotionals on Paul Miller’s book, A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World (NavPress, Colorado Springs: 2009). As I said in those weeks, others have taught me more about the nature and purposes of prayer, but Miller has taught me more about the practical aspects of prayer.
Part 1 of his book, which is divided into five parts, is entitled “Learning to Pray like a Child.” In this section Miller highlights Jesus’ many calls to childlike living including that in Matthew 18:3, “Truly, I say to you, unless you become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” This sentence is easy to understand but the question is, what are its practical implications?
Miller writes, “Jesus wants us to be without pretense when we come to him in prayer. Instead, we often try to be something we aren’t. We begin by concentrating on God, but almost immediately our minds wander off in a dozen different directions. The problems of the day push out our well-intentioned resolve to be spiritual. We give ourselves a spiritual kick in the pants and try again, but life crowds out prayer. We know that prayer isn’t supposed to be like this, so we give up in despair. We might as well get something done.
“What’s the problem? We’re trying to be spiritual, to get it right. We know we don’t need to clean up our act in order to become a Christian, but when it comes to praying, we forget that. We, like adults, try to fix ourselves up. In contrast, Jesus wants us to come to him like little children, just as we are” (50-51).
But the issue is that when we come just as we are, we come messy and we don’t like that. Prayer forces us to slow down and look inside but when we look inside we’re confronted with the true state of our lives. This is hard.
However, it’s a hard worth getting through because Jesus wants to be with the real us. He’s not interested in the ideal us. He’s not impressed by our pretending, anymore than he was with the Pharisees or Sadducees. So as hard as it is, Jesus Christ, who is God, is bidding us to come just as we are, and I pray that we will. I pray that we will learn what it means to be like children who are often found rushing into the presence of their Father.
Longing to become like a child,