I’ve always been a little in awe of the idea that we, as believers, can actually make a difference through prayer. How is it not completely arrogant to imagine that we as sinful creatures could change the mind and plan of Almighty God?
This past Sunday was Easter, but thanks to Daddy coming down with a virus, the baby having a terrible time teething, and three out of four kids being ill with nasty colds, we stayed home from church. We did manage to still enjoy giving the children their Easter baskets, discuss in detail the great sacrifice God made for us, and arrange an indoor egg hunt that evening. The grand prize of the egg hunt was a shiny golden egg with $2 in it and a promise for the winning daughter to have the rare treat of picking out a favorite piece of candy next time we go grocery shopping. The golden egg was hidden carefully in the refrigerator and stayed hidden until the very end of the hunt, when little M discovered it, to her great joy. She immediately declared that she would get a bag of M&M’s for her treat and graciously offered to share them with her sisters.
Monday morning found me and the kids running a few errands in our van. When we were nearly home, M piped up from the middle seat with, “Mommy, can I share my egg prize with my sisters?”
“Sure, M, you can share your M&M’s with them. That’s very sweet, honey.”
“No, Mommy, M&M’s aren’t their favorite. If we cut my money in half there will be enough. Can I give it to them so that they can buy their favorite candy like me?”
That precious voice so generously and sincerely desiring to share her joy with her sisters made my heart melt. (Is there anything more adorable than your children showing love toward each other?) Of course, $2 is not enough money for three varieties of candy, and her sisters certainly didn’t “earn” the privilege of picking out their own treat. But as I glanced in my bus lady mirror and briefly caught M’s bright blue eyes with my own, the love I have for her welled up within me, and I was very happy to reply, “Yes, M, your sisters may each pick out their own favorite treat when you do.”
The squeals of delight coming from the back of the van made me smile, but a moment later I was struck by the question, Is this how God hears us?
I’ve struggled at times with understanding how to approach God in prayer. I know that I have nothing of my own to offer Him… “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags…” (Is. 64:6). I know that He is holy and to be feared in great reverence… “The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, He is the one you are to fear, He is the one you are to dread.” (Is. 8:13). I know that we are to approach Him with confidence… “In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” (Eph. 3:12). I know all of these things, and yet couldn’t see how to connect them. Should I grovel at His feet, unworthy and ashamed? Should I hide my face in fear of His purity? Should I come boldly, recklessly claiming all things as my right in the name of Jesus?
Somehow, in my understanding of God as judge (Ps. 50:6), King (Ps. 22:28), and Lord (Ps. 24:1), I had forgotten His love. I had forgotten how He delights in us.
“…the Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.” Psalm 147:11
“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17
“He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” Psalm 18:19
How He loves us!
“How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” Psalm 36:7
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions…” Ephesians 2:4-5
“…to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge…” Ephesians 3:18-19
Yes, in ourselves we are unworthy to approach the great throne of God. But in His love, He has made a way! He is the Judge, the King, the Lord of lords, but in His love, He has adopted us, making Him our Father and us His cherished sons and daughters.
The love I have for my children cannot compare to the love God has for us as His children. Why do I so often forget that? When I approach my heavenly Father in prayer, He is delighted to hear me and speak with me. His desire is for me as His daughter. When I approach Him in confidence as my loving Father and make my requests of Him, He is pleased to listen to them and to answer me. I trust in His wisdom and know the outcome will not always change, but I also believe, when His will permits, the outcome can and will change. This is the way that “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16).
This different understanding of how to approach God in prayer just underscores the fact that Christianity is not a list of requirements. It is a relationship. It is love. It is completely undeserved grace and mercy offered in the greatest of loves, and when accepted in faith, Christianity is trusting submission and obedience, provision for all our needs, and eternity with the One who loves us so well. He loves us. He loves me.
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace” (Heb. 4:16), not in arrogance or an attitude of groveling, but in full confidence, knowing that He who hears us is delighted with us as His children and will answer our petitions in wisdom and with unfailing love.