This post comes from a Peanuts cartoon that I had filed away. Late one night, Linus is getting ready for bed. He appears to be deep in thought as he moves his hands in different positions. Lucy, his sister, comes into the room only to find Linus on his knees, praying.
“I think I’ve made a new theological discovery,” says Linus.
“What is it?” Lucy asks.
“If you hold your hands upside down, you get the opposite of what you pray for!”
Before we laugh too quickly at Linus for his theological ignorance, maybe we should look at our own approach to prayer. How often do we come to the throne of grace thinking that God can be tricked or talked into giving us what we want? Far too many Christians think of God as hesitant and stingy when it comes to answering the prayers of His people. So we try to figure out clever ways of offering Him bribes or saying specific words as if they had magical powers to get God to give us what we want.
All prayer should begin with this fundamental belief: God’s greatest joy doesn’t come from making us do certain things but in meeting our needs. God doesn’t need to be persuaded or forced (If it were possible) into blessing His people. God’s heart is filled with joy and delight in His children and He loves nothing more than to shower us with blessings far beyond what we can even comprehend. (Eph. 3:20). If you don’t believe this about our heavenly Father I doubt very seriously that you will come boldly to the throne of grace, if you come at all.
I have never doubted God’s motives in His treatment of me. I never have questioned that He had anything other than my best interests at heart, whether I have understood it completely, or not. There’s no getting around the fact that our confidence and joy in prayer is related directly to how we think of the character of God. He really is our Father.
Jesus made the most of this truth and made a point of it to encourage His disciples to pray with confidence. “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent, or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?” (Luke 11:11-12). Not even the worst or meanest of fathers would so horribly mistreat their children. Even though we are evil, Jesus says, we will certainly come to help our children when they are in need. “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit [Matthew says “good things”; (Matt. 7:11) to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13).
The differences above are obvious. Our heavenly Father isn’t evil, but He is infinitely good. Our heavenly Father thinks only of how we might be blessed. Our heavenly Father isn’t limited in what He can do or is He short on resources to meet our needs. Just as the goodness of our heavenly Father exceeds that of our earthly father, so is His willingness to give us in answer to our prayers. Knowing this about God, shouldn’t our prayers be bold and constant and confident and expectant?
God is not a stranger who must be bullied into responding to the cries and requests of His children. He is not a self-serving bully who demands more works and greater deeds before He gives in to our petitions; and He isn’t a loving grandfather who can be tricked or flattered into giving us what we know we shouldn’t have asked for in the first place. He is, instead, an infinitely wise God who knows what we need, an infinitely rich God who is never in short supply, an infinitely passionate God who rejoices in doing good for those He has redeemed, and an infinitely gracious God who is full of kindness, and mercy, and power.
Don’t make the mistake Linus did in thinking that your position or the proper placement of your hands or your just right words has any effect on the heart of God. He is a God who “waits to be gracious to you, and therefore He exalts Himself to show mercy to you” (Isa. 30:18) What is he waiting on? “He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as He hears it, He answers you.” (Isa. 30:19).
Something to think about on this beautiful Tuesday.
Shalom, until tomorrow, Lord willing,