“Mommy, I have a sticker”: Lessons in prayer from children

“Mommy, I have a sticker!”

This was the phrase I heard from an adorable 2 year-old during our community group.  The little girl was so excited to show her mom something as simple as a sticker.  She pointed out all the colors, the picture, every detail.

Between babysitting, teaching, and working in church nursery/children’s ministry, I’ve worked with children for over 15 years.  One thing I’ve noticed is no matter the age, children are excited to share every discovery, every new thing they see and experience.  Younger children love to bring adults everything they find — flowers, pictures they colored, even rocks.  When presented with these items, we ooh and ahh and exclaim as though they are bringing us priceless jewels.  As children get a little older, they bring “information.”  They want to tell us every item they received at Christmas or for a birthday.  They relay every detail of a conversation, every game they played with friends, along with every hurt — from skinned knees to broken hearts.

Recently, I thought about the commonalities between how children relate to adults and how I relate to my Heavenly Father.  Using the title “Father” in reference to God is easy; talking to Him in the same relational way is not so easy.  When I pray, do I come to God in the same way a child runs to adult?  We are told to boldly approach the throne (Hebrews 4:16); but, do I bring everything to Him?  Just as parents want their children to come running and share the details of their day, God wants us to do the same.  He wants me to come to Him and just talk about the day; to ask for help in dealing with difficulties; to thank Him for knowledge and strength to do my job well.  He wants me to share my heart with Him — all of it.

So, why am I afraid to do that?  Why don’t I run to Him in all things?  Why don’t I share all the details of my day with Him?  If I am honest, I struggle to believe that God cares about details.  I can easily recite the verse that talks about God caring about one sparrow that falls and knowing the hairs on my head.  But, when the rubber meets the road, I don’t believe He really wants to hear about my day — good, bad, or mundane.

When I started trying to go to Him with everything, I immediately began to wonder where to start.  How does this work?  What do I say?  Then, I realized I needed to do what a child does — just start talking.  When I pray, I always worry about staying on track, or I think about how things sound.  When children talk, they do not worry about staying on track.  Just listen to them for 5 minutes and count how many different topics they can cover.  For children, if a thought enters their mind, it comes out of their mouth.  I can be that open, honest, and transparent with my Heavenly Father.  He wants me to be that way.  That’s what relationship looks like.  It is sharing life — down the small details.

 

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Relationship

“For God intends the lives of believers to be a reflection and reproduction of Jesus’ own fellowship with himself.”  (from Knowing God by J.I. Packer, p 204)

When I first read this sentence, I wondered what the author was talking about.  Could this be true?  When I look at the relationship between the Father and the Son, I am struck by the intimacy, the affection, and the security.  And to think that God wants that same kind of relationship with all His children!?!?  No wonder the Apostle John exclaims, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1).

And this relationship affects everything else in life.  When we begin to see ourselves as beloved children of God, it changes how we react to situations, how and when we pray, how we relate to other people, how we work or go to school.  It changes everything.

Trust Daddy

“We might have a crash,” said the small girl anxiously, as the family car threaded its way through traffic.  “Trust Daddy; he’s a good driver,” said Mommy.  The young lady was reassured, and she relaxed at once.

This is an excerpt from “Knowing God” by J.I. Packer.  As I read this short scene, I was reminded of numerous car rides as a child.  I constantly wanted to know where we were going.  Eventually, my mom began responding with “Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.”  It was her way of telling me I didn’t need to know everything.  As I think on it now, I realize that I wanted reassurance that we were going to reach our destination, and my mom was saying, “trust me; I know where we’re going.”

It’s the same with God.  Psalm 119:105 says “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  Have you ever had to walk somewhere in the dark?  Unless you carry a spotlight in your pocket (which I seriously doubt any of us do), the flashlights we use only give enough light to see the next step.  Similarly, God grants enough light, from His Word, for the next step.  If we could see the entire path, we wouldn’t depend on our Father to guide us safely to our destination.  Just like the little girl in the story, I need to be reminded that Daddy is a good driver and then sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

Abba! Father!

When I mention struggling with viewing God as more than Judge, Romans 8:15 is usually the first verse quoted to me.  “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ ”  The interesting thing is that I don’t dispute the truth and validity of scripture, yet I struggle daily with my identity in Christ.

I remember as a teenager, and even in my twenties, spending countless nights screaming at God.  Praying, crying, for things to change or for Him to help me.  Many well-intentioned friends told me that it was wrong to scream at God, to get mad at Him, or to question what He was doing.  As a result, I spent many years convinced that I had ruined my relationship with God.  I had acted wrongly towards Him and, therefore, He would want nothing more to do with me.  The other side of that coin was to ask how was I supposed to talk to God.  If I couldn’t go to Him with my honest questions and doubts, then how was I to trust Him and relate to Him?

Abba.  Recently I listened to the book “Adopted for Life” by Russell Moore.  In chapter three of his book, Moore talks about the “abba” cry mentioned in Mark 14:36, Romans 8:15, and Galatians 4:6.  The “abba cry”, according to Moore, is not the cute little infant cooing “da-da”.  This is a primal scream.  It is the cry of a child in danger begging, pleading for his/her father to rescue them.

In his Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, Martin Luther describes “abba” in this way:
Small as this word is, it says ever so much.  It says, “My Father, I am in
great trouble and you seem so far away.  But I know I am your child,
because You are my Father for Christ’s sake.  I am loved by you because
of the Beloved.”

 

Working backwards

Friends have heard me say that I tend to work my theology backwards.  What I mean is that I tend to look at human relationships and decide that God must be like that.  WRONG!!  In chapter 19 of “Knowing God” author J.I. Packer says, “God has not left us to guess what his fatherhood amounts to by drawing analogies from human fatherhood.” (p 204)   We are not supposed to look at humans and say “that is how God is”.  Instead, we are to look at God and realize that is how we are to be.

Another quote from the same chapter says, “For God intends the lives of believers to be a reflection and reproduction of Jesus’ own fellowship with himself.” (p 204) This quote was a light bulb moment for me.  To realize that God wants to be as close and intimate with me, with all His children, as He was with Jesus.  That is shocking to me.  That the God of the universe, the Creator of the ends of the earth, wants to be close to me.  My immediate reaction is to ask, “why?”  It doesn’t make sense.  And, I’m starting to think it’s not meant to.  If everything made sense, there would be no need for faith.  No dependence on God.

Thin ice and a firm foundation

I was thinking tonight on the drive home about how I view my relationship with God.  Strangely, I realized that I view my current relationship like walking on a frozen lake.  I approach it like testing for thin ice.  I check to make sure I won’t fall through, make sure my footing is secure.  What has struck me over the past few days is that I don’t have to test my footing.  I still approach God with hesitation.  Yet, scripture tells me,
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may
receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”   ~ Hebrews 4:16
(emphasis added).
And,
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by
the blood of Jesus,”  ~ Hebrews 10:19
Also,
“therefore thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation:”  ~ Isaiah 28:16

So, while I keep testing for sure footing, God’s word tells me that the foundation is secure.  And Psalm 136 drives home the point by repeating “His steadfast love endures forever” a total of 26 times.  So, why do I keep testing the ground beneath my feet?

 

A Special Diet

A couple of days ago, I was listening to C.J. Mahaney’s sermon “God as Father: Understanding the Biblical Doctrine of Adoption.”  In the course of his sermon, he suggested that those who struggle with seeing God as Father and believing that He loves them should focus solely on scriptures and readings that talk about the Biblical doctrine of adoption.  Mahaney says if he could, he would create “a special diet” for them that focuses solely on this topic.  So, that is my goal.  To focus, for the next few weeks, on this topic and the suggested readings.

Here is the reading list, which will be supplemented with various Scripture readings:

1) Ch. 19 from “Knowing God” by J.I. Packer
2) Ch. 3 from “Adopted for Life” by Russell Moore
3) “Adopted into God’s Family” by Trevor Burke
4) “Children of the Living God” by Sinclair Ferguson