I remember vividly, almost as if it had happened today, 15 years ago receiving a call that forever changed my life. It was a call that began an ongoing journey of learning how to pray, and to see God as a perfect Father, who loved me more than I could ever fully grasp, deeply active and concerned about every single moment of my life and family. He was the only Father I could truly trust with everything, had endless resources, would never forsake me, and was available 24/7 regardless. He was more than capable of handling anything I couldn’t control, which is pretty well nothing. I was able to find peace in every desperate situation, knowing my Father was more than capable and I could trust Him with anything and everything. It began a practice and habit of “running” to Him when a situation arose that was too “big” for me, and a place so beautiful I never wanted to leave.
It happened on a very busy day when I was working an hour away from home. I remember being slightly agitated to be bothered by a phone call while I was so busy and was trying to keep things moving efficiently at work. My job was my life, and I was a “slave driving” workaholic, or so it seems looking back. As I irritatedly answered the phone I immediately sensed something was unusually wrong, and could hear the desperation, pain, fear, anxiety, and hopelessness in my wife’s voice. My 14-year-old daughter had become deeply distressed, harmed herself, and had run back into the woods behind our house. She would not respond to pleas, and no one could get close to her. Without saying a word, I jumped into my truck and drove at a high speed and reckless abandon, as nothing else mattered at this moment. I started “screaming and weeping uncontrollably and audibly to God, begging Him for mercy, and protection for my “baby”. Was God trying to ruin my life? Why and how could He allow this to happen to us? What kind of a Father would allow this to happen to His children who followed and served Him? In the woods behind our home there were several ponds, and I could imagine finding my daughter floating on one of them. It was horrible, as I was beside myself with every emotion, and thought imaginable, and desperate to get home in time to save my precious daughter. Just recalling this traumatic event brings back tears and intense emotions. It was almost like my life had stopped or ended. My conversation with God was raw, honest, desperate, authentic, and frank. There was no hypocrisy, feeling of obligation, or just “going through the motions”. Nope it was intense, and nothing was held back. It may have been the first real prayer I ever prayed and began an incredible journey of discovery. The good news is we were able to convince her to come home and to a safe place, but all our lives as a family have been and continue to be impacted by this event and many life events since.
Reflecting on this event and life in general I was drawn to Psalm 57:17 The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart
This verse was a prayer of David and came from a time of deep pain, betrayal, and remorse. David had just betrayed one of his most loyal friends, by arranging for him to be killed so he could have his wife. What a horrible and costly choice, and David was extremely broken and repentant. Despite a seemingly unforgiveable sin that cost so much pain to many, David knew that God was His Father who would never turn away one of His broken, honest, authentic, and repentant children.
Hosea 6:6 reads I don’t want your sacrifices—I want your love; I don’t want your offerings—I want you to know me.
Often God allows difficult situations in our lives, so we run to Him and discover that knowing Him is so much richer, fuller, rewarding, hopeful, peaceful, and joyful than trying to navigate life on our own. Psalm 16:11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life:
In thy presence is fulness of life; in thy right hand are pleasures for evermore
I have found this to be so true! When I run to the Father I am overwhelmed with His goodness, Grace, and Love. It is a place I never want to leave. Prayer is the avenue to find, know, and to experience Him. Matthew 6:6-15 explains to us how to pray and approach God. First, we should go into our closet or find a place to be alone with Him. This avoids distractions, but also helps us to focus on Him, and to feel safe so we can be authentic. Often when we pray in public it is easy to pray to people and not God. It is as if our goal is to sound spiritual and impress others first and has little to do with addressing or being with God. God says if you pray with this motive, you have already received your reward, making it unlikely God will hear or respond positively to your selfish prayer. As in much of life, it is our attitudes and heart that God sees and matters. What is our motive for praying, and how do we see or approach God? Do we approach Him as a business partner or try to make Him feel obligated? Is it just about religion, and performing our duties?
Jesus says the key to effective prayer is approaching Him as Father. When you understand this, it changes everything, and is no longer about obligation, being seen, valued, or a business transaction. Yes, God is many things, a judge, God, all powerful, ruler, etc, but He primarily is our Father through adoption. A father is someone we know well and have learned to trust. We don’t have to try to impress Him, He already is impressed and loves us regardless of our failures and struggles. We feel free, without hesitation, to call on Him at any time and are convinced He is capable of giving what we need and has our best interests in mind. When we pray to our Father, our prayers are raw, authentic, and powerful, without formality, distance or coldness, and everything else around us and in life seems nonexistent. I am convinced if we prayed like the Father desires, and in confidence as our Father, people would take notice, maybe unlike anything they have ever heard. It would be attractive, encouraging, and life changing. The kind of cries of desperation, when no one is around, or in your car. Real stuff, not fluff.
Why then if prayer is so awesome is it so hard? I don’t think I have ever met anyone whether a pastor, spiritual leader, or follower of Christ who is satisfied with their prayer lives or who doesn’t struggle with not wanting to pray at times. The stakes are high, and our enemy understands the significance of prayer. If he can keep us from prayer most of the battle is won, and we become weak, ineffective, and disconnected from our father. When we do struggle with prayer it is a reminder that we have a desire to pray which is a good thing. None of us struggles with things we don’t want to do. If it is not a struggle and we don’t want to pray, or it doesn’t bother us that is extremely dangerous.
Lastly it is through prayer that healing comes. Isaiah 61 says that Jesus has come to bring healing, emotional healing, and set the captives free. We are broken sinful people who desperately need the Father’s healing touch. Only one person can heal our brokenness, emotional pain, damage, and broken relationships. This healing comes through prayer, relationship, and talking with our Father. Jesus didn’t have to go to the cross. He could have said enough and walked away. It was an awful price to pay. On the cross He prayed in deep anguish, pain, and distress to His Father as always, but this time His Father was gone and did not answer. No one has ever or will ever feel so alone as Jesus on that cross rejected by all and His Father. He chose not to walk away and take that unthinkable rejection, hopelessness, and deep loneliness so we never have to. We are never alone and our Father will always answer because Jesus refused to get down off the cross. I trust you will be encouraged and always run to your Heavenly Father knowing and receiving His incredible love and care.