So I open first with a quote:
"I'm afraid we'll merely play with the PAPA prayer for a day or two and not really pray it as a lifestyle, unless we get rid of the notion that the center of prayer is asking for things. The true center of prayer, it's real point, is relating to God" (p. 37).
Isn't that the truth?!! The whole beginning of this book, even though, yes, I want a deep relationship with God, still at the forefront is the thought, "OK, I'll do this, I'll get prayer right, and then God will give me what I want!" Sounds an awful lot like Pastor Brian's sermon a couple of weeks ago (January 24) on 'life under God'!!
The thing is, I do want a deep relationship with God, but I'm holding back! What's holding me back?! Darran (my amazing husband), says it's because I don't trust that God is good and I'm afraid He'll ask something of me that I don't want to do. Hmm, makes sense! In my head I know God is good!! But in my heart, do I trust Him with my life? Always we want to cling to control! And afraid of what He'll ask of me? Yeah, I'm terrified! For some reason, I think I like the way I am and my life as it is. Dare I say that, sometimes perhaps, it seems as though God is there but not entirely necessary? Wow! That sounds a lot like Pastor Brian's sermon this past Sunday (January 31) - 'life over God'! I think I'm really going to need to listen carefully to the rest of that series!
So do you really want to be in relationship with God? Let's do this! Give up the idea that prayer is about getting things and embrace the fact that prayer is first and foremost about relating to God - being in relationship with Him!
So I wonder, the person who has lived half her life with Rheumatoid Arthritis, and has a deep relationship with God, does she pray for healing? I don't think so! Do the people around her pray for healing for her? I think they do, at least most of them. I think they pray for her healing because they (we) assume that's what we're supposed to pray for. But, instead of praying for healing, should we not pray that God is glorified through that disease? Instead of praying for an end to suffering, should we not pray that God is glorified in that suffering? Instead of praying for an end to poverty, should we not pray that God is glorified in that poverty? Why does God allow hardships? That we might glorify Him through them. Why did God not remove the "thorn in the flesh" from Paul? That God might be glorified through it! What is the chief end of man? To glorify Him and enjoy Him forever! That means to be in relationship with Him!! Why did God create us? For His own glory! EVERYTHING is about glorifying God! How can we glorify God in all things? By being in deep relationship with Him!
"But we don't naturally think of prayer as an opportunity to relate with God. Most of us find our prayer lives dominated by asking God for things. For most of us, that's what prayer is. ... But if we hold to it, if we keep on believing that prayer is more about getting things than getting God, not only will we eventually get thoroughly confused when prayer doesn't 'work', but talking to God will at some point feel boring as well. If we're honest" (p. 37).
Dr. Crabb gives a personal example of praying a relational prayer. Much too lengthy to include in my notes but it was in regards to friends of him and his wife and the basic frame he gives, which they followed in their prayer, is:
present yourself to God (tell how you feel, where you're coming from) (e.g. a rebellious child return's home)
attend to how you picture God in the situation (e.g. The Father in the parable of the Prodigal Son who runs to meet his returning son)
purging by confessing your weaknesses/sin (e.g. "Lord I feel really cynical of this person's apparent change of heart")
approach God in relationship
Then they could bring their petitions to God. "Relational prayer released petitionary prayer" (p. 39).
"Petitioning without relationship - that's what our praying so often amounts to, even though it's well disguised" (p. 41) Rather a sad thought, really!
"Our prayers of communion and worship sometimes have more to do with staying on God's good side in order to get more blessings than with building our relationship with Him. The idea of knowing God and being known by Him just doesn't seem that important" (p. 41). (Or, perhaps, just downright terrifying??)
Dr. Crabb gives a couple of illustrations: children in the summer looking for the ice-cream man, not because they care about him but because they want ice-cream; children sit on Santa's knee, don't care to get to know him or see how he's doing, just give their list of things they want and hop right off. "We Christians call it prayer", he says (p. 41). Ouch!!
Prayer, we're told (and, for those who've grown up in Reformed churches, memorized) is the most important part of our thankfulness. God wants us to know Him and how do we respond? "Gimme! Gimme!" If someone does something incredibly kind for you, how do you respond? With "oh that was nice, now I also want you to do this, this and give me this"?? No! That would be ungrateful! We respond by wanting to get to know that person, wanting to understand what motivated him, spend time just being with him, develop friendship with him! Why, then, is our "relationship" with God mor of a list of demands than a determined effort to really know Him?! If prayer is the most important part of our thankfulness, why do we show our so-called thankfulness by simply giving a list of demands?! "Oh, and I love You, Lord!!" we tack on awkwardly, like a child who thinks that simply saying "I love you" will get her what she wants. (I've seen it in my own children.) We try to manipulate GOD!
Dr. Crabb shows this when he says, "Petitionary prayers that are offered with no real thought of getting to know God through relational prayer eventually become the rantings of a spoiled brat. ... The devil stacks the shelves with tasty items, and, in our flesh, we pray, 'Give me this. I want that. In Jesus name and for His glory, amen' " (p. 41).
"So many of our requests are good and legitimate. Some are truly other-centered. But we're still asking for things without really knowing who it is we're talking to, so we can't really hear His voice" (p. 42). There-in lies the problem, What we ask for might be good things, but if we don't bother to know the One we're asking, how can we discern if what we ask is His will??
"We hear only ourselves and hope He's listening. ... Let the Giver stop giving, and we throw a tantrum. We think of it as fervent prayer" (p. 42).
So this we must first understand if we are to enjoy the PAPA prayer, if it is to flow naturally from us, that "the chief purpose of prayer is not to get things from God. Neither is it to praise or thank Him from a distance. The chief purpose of prayer is to get to know God, to deepen our relationship with Him, to nourish the life of God He's already placed within us, and to do it all to satisfy His desire for relationship with us" (p. 42).
And Jesus taught us to pray relationally, with a model prayer "to guide us in our conversations with Papa" (p. 43). This is, of course, The Lord's Prayer, and it looks like we get to learn more about that in the next chapter.
My series on this book on relational prayer can be found here.