Thursday, November 24, 2011

in the way of grace

Hans asked Emeth to close his eyes. In his hand held a sweet surprise. A morsel of chocolate-covered ice-cream. He planned to pop it into Emeth's mouth after his eyes were closed. It may not seem like a big deal, but to our three-year-old, it required a great amount of trust and faith in daddy. These days, "Why?" is a common response to the instructions we give to him. The request was simple: obey daddy and trust that daddy has only what is good for you in mind.

God asks his children to pray. Too often, however, our hearts rebel again this exercise and ask "Why?" What difference does it make? God is sovereign, so why does it matter whether we pray or not?

Prayer is not a shopping list; it is not a to-do list. It is not merely meditation, or a means of unloading our fears and worries. It is not even "just talking to God."

In the language of Jonathan Edwards, when we pray, we are placing ourselves "in the way of grace." I think of the centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant, or the woman who touched Jesus' cloak, or the Canaanite woman who threw herself at Christ's feet for the sake of her daughter. They each placed themselves in Jesus' path, and their hope in his mercy.

Compare to the many other things we can be doing, praying can seem so -- unproductive -- because it is (on our part, anyway). It is as unfruitful as when the sons of Israel circled around Jericho again, and again, and again.

Prayer is a picture of how grace is to be received -- us on our knees doing "nothing." It is us living out our dependence on God, a realization that we can do nothing apart from him, and a proclamation that he has done everything for us. Praying is hard because it requires sacrifice, yet it yields no measurable result. Surrender with little honor. Hard work with no glory, especially having been asked to pray in the closet.

Prayer is a kind of death lived out,
a daily dying to self.

This way of grace, however, is also how we get to participate in God's work, and take part in God's joy. We get to. Like the four friends who believed. They made a hole in the roof and lowered their sick friend at Jesus' feet. They got to be a part of Jesus' miracle. They got to be a part of the story.

Close your eyes, darling,
and trust daddy.


The Opera Diva said...

Definitely what I needed to read. Grad school applications are scary. And I just want to do nothing else besides completing it. Yesterday, I was so caught up applying I forgot to eat and drink. "I must pray" He whispered to me all day yesterday..but I kept ignoring it. Now it's just too obvious! Thanks, Jie!

E! said...

I just now read this.
Dibs are yummy.

I find myself often shying from his grace. Afraid he just might answer. Afraid of the discipline he dispenses, afraid he might be true.

The Fathers gifts are all-good.
Help me trust Your love!

Seda said...

Szeling -- We are praying for you and Alec, in the fullest sense of the word. *hug* Give those apps all you've got!

Esther -- Yes, I know that fear all too well. We think we have the Father all figured out, these pride-full and un-trusting hearts of ours. Someone prayed a prayer for these hearts a long time ago: "Lord I believe, help our unbelief."