A Praying Life
6/10/09 at 11:12 AM 0 Comments

The Real You Learns to Pray

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Jesus gives us a secret to real prayer when he invites us to come to him "weary and heavy laden." Jesus does not say, "Come to me all you who have learned how to concentrate in prayer, whose minds no longer wander, and I will give you rest." No, Jesus opens his arms to his needy children and says, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28 NIV). The criteria for coming to Jesus is weariness. Come overwhelmed with life. Come with a wandering mind. Come messy.

What does it feel like to be weary? You have trouble concentrating. The problems of the day are like a claw in your brain. You feel pummeled by life.
What does "heavy laden" feel like? Same thing. You have so many problems you don't even know where to start. You can't do life on your own any more. Jesus wants you to come that way! Your weariness drives you to him.

Why is it so important to come "just as you are"? The real you has to meet the real God. He is a person. If you don't, then you are artificial and unreal, like the Pharisees. The only way to come to God is by taking off any spiritual mask.
So, instead of being frozen by your self-preoccupation, begin with what you are preoccupied about. Tell God where you are weary. If you don't begin with where you are, then "where you are" will sneak in the back door. Your mind will wander to where you are weary.

When we slow down to pray, we are often so busy and overwhelmed we often don't even know where our hearts are. We don't even know what troubles us. So oddly enough, you might have to worry before you pray. Then your prayers will make sense. They will be about your real life. Your heart could be, and often is, askew. But you have to begin with what is real. Jesus didn't come for the righteous. He came for sinners. All of us qualify. The very thing we try to get rid of-our weariness, our distractedness, our messiness-is what gets us in the front door! That's how the gospel works!

In bringing your real self to Jesus, you give him the opportunity to work on the real you, and you will slowly change. The kingdom will come. You'll end up less selfish.

The kingdom comes when Jesus becomes king of your life. But it has to be your life. You can't create a kingdom that doesn't exist, where you try to be better than you really are. Jesus calls that hypocrisy-putting on a mask to cover the real you.

Ironically, many attempts to teach people to pray encourage the creation of a split personality. They teach you to do it right. Instead of the real, messy you meeting God, you try to recreate yourself by becoming spiritual.
No wonder prayer is so unsatisfying.

So instead of being frozen by yourself, begin with yourself.. That's how the gospel works. God begins with you. It's a little scary because "you" is messed up.

God would much rather deal with the real thing. Jesus repeatedly said that he came for sinners, for messed up people who keep messing up (Luke 15:1,2). Come dirty. That is the heart of the gospel. That's why Jesus came--we are incapable of beginning with God.

The whole point of the gospel is that we incapable of beginning with God and his kingdom. Many Christians pray mechanically for God's kingdom (for missionaries, the church, and so on), but all the while their desire life is wrapped up in their own kingdom. You can't add God's kingdom as an overlay over your own.

If you get this simple truth, then, like Kim, you have taken your first wobbly step. In fact, you might want to take a wobbly step now, by pausing to pray, like a little child.

--This blog post is adapted from Paul Miller's latest book, A Praying Life. Watch for more posts from Paul on the topic of prayer.

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