The Mystery of Prayer
Understanding the nature of prayer can be difficult even for adults… sometimes ESPECIALLY for adults! On the one hand we believe that God is sovereign and omnipotent. He knows everything and can do anything. Why do we need to pray? On the other hand, the Scripture clearly challenges us to pray. Prayer is also a spiritual discipline and, like all disciplines, it can be difficult to do with consistency and dedication when our lives are busy and demanding. How can we better understand prayer and how can we help our kids to better understand it? Given the mystery of prayer, isn’t it really beyond our grasp? Here are some thoughts that might be helpful…
Prayer is Primarily Relational
As a parent or teacher, you know that kids are inquisitive and can be quite talkative. Their questions and constant flow of words can be tiring, but however exhausting their questions, petitions, and stories might be, we welcome the words because we love them. AND, their communication reveals a level of trust in us and love for us. At its core, communication (talking) is a form of self-disclosure and self-disclosure is the key to intimacy. Want to know someone better? Get them to talk about themselves. In many cases they’ll tell you more than you want to know! We listen to our children attentively because their words strengthen our relationship with them.
We are God’s children. Yes, He knows our hearts and desires better than we do, but relationships are always a bit mysterious. Our relationship to God is no exception. It can’t be reduced to a formula. He loves us. Who can fathom the depths of that simple statement? Somehow, talking to God (prayer) brings us into His presence, really. He is a real person. We can know Him. But like all relationships, they must be tended to like a garden. Prayer is how we “tend to” our relationship with God. Don’t understand it? Good! No relationship can be fully understood. Relax. Be still. Listen. Talk. Let the quiet moments of prayer draw you into His arms. I don’t always understand the connection that grows when my Granddaughter crawls into my lap and falls asleep, but it’s real and I love it.
Prayer Sees the Possibilities
Sometimes we think that God has only one path for us to follow. We imagine that in any given moment there’s only one right (and wrong) choice. How will God answer my prayer? Will He go right or left? Yes or no? But God is so much bigger than a simple left or right, up or down. Prayer lets God be God. Prayer sees that for God, there are always options and countless possibilities that we may never see and probably can’t see. But He does. And He can open doors of possibility that are beyond our ability to see. Prayer says, “Here’s my heart, God. Now do what you know is best.”
Knowing that God sees the possibilities can change us as well. God may know what I want NOW, but as I rest in His presence, my current “wants” may change. His peace can give us rest when we think we need action NOW! Or perhaps in the midst of our laziness and procrastination, God gives us a “swift kick in the behind” and moves us to action. For God, the possibilities in any given circumstance are infinite. Prayer helps us see the expanse of those possibilities, even if we don’t see what they are.
Prayer is Learned by Doing
Want to help your kids learn to pray? Pray with them. As a rule, children don’t have difficulty praying. They sort of get it rather naturally. But, their worlds are filled with distractions just like ours. Kids need to be challenged to pray, invited to pray, helped to pray. They need to see and hear you pray. They need to see your own relationship with God in action as you enter into His presence.
If this scares you, perhaps the place to start is in your own prayer life. On the other hand, you may discover that your children can strengthen your understanding of prayer as much as you do their’s. Prayer may be mysterious, but it’s not a hidden mystery. As you ponder the mystery of prayer, remember God wants you and your children to come into His presence through prayer. He loves you. He’s waiting for you. He’s waiting for THEM. Will you help them learn how to enter into the presence of our loving, heavenly Father?
Author, Speaker, Bible Teacher
See a list of other articles by Rick Edwards.