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.