A Praying Life
6/10/09 at 11:01 AM 0 Comments

The Secret to Prayer

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On more than one occasion, Jesus tells his disciples to become like a little child.. How does becoming like a little child help us to pray? To answer, let's recall how difficult just a five minute prayer time is.

When we pray, our mind wanders 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. Then the same thing happens all over again. 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. Nothing confronts our selfishness and spiritual powerlessness like prayer.

Little children never get frozen by their selfishness. Like the disciples, they just come as they are, totally self-absorbed. They seldom get it right. As parents or friends, we know all that. In fact, we are delighted (most of the time!) to find out what is on their little hearts. We don't scold them for being self-absorbed or fearful. That is just who they are.

This isn't just a random observation about little children. This is the gospel, the welcoming heart of God. God cheers when we come to him with our wobbling, unsteady prayers.

We were uncertain whether Kim would ever be able to walk, so when she took her first step at three years old we didn't say, "Kim, that was all very well and good, but you are two years late. You have a lot of catching up to do, including long range walking, not to mention, running, skipping, and jumping."
What did we do? We screamed; we yelled; we jumped up and down. The family came rushing in to find out what had happened. Cameras came out, and Kim repeated her triumph. It was awesome.

Don't try to get the prayer right, just tell God where you are and what's on your mind. Little children never fix themselves up. They just come as they are, runny noses and all. Like the disciples, they just say what is on their mind.

We know that to become a Christian we shouldn't try to fix ourselves up, but when it comes to praying we completely forget that. We'll sing the old gospel hymn, "Just as I am," but when it comes to praying, we don't come just as we are. We try, like adults, to fix ourselves up. Private personal prayer is one of the last, great bastions of legalism. In order to pray like a child, you might need to unlearn the non-personal, non-real praying that you've been taught.

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

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