Want to learn more about building a life of prayer? Me too. Meet me here on Wednesdays for an ongoing series exploring prayer using Dr. Andrew Murray's book, With Christ in the School of Prayer. I'm honored to learn alongside you.
Chapter six in our study enters difficult territory. Since I have read the chapter I have asked myself over and again if this is why prayer is so very difficult? Is it this intimacy? This probing down into the depths of who we are and demanding vulnerability and trust? This requirement that we let go of all the self-protective measures we've learned through painful, weary practice and become as open and careless as we were as children. To become in fact, children, again?
Dr. Murray urges us:
"Now open the ears of the heart, timid child of God; let it go sinking right down into the innermost depths of the soul. Here is the starting-point of holiness, in the love and patience and pity of our heavenly Father. We have not to learn to be holy as a hard lesson at school, that we may make God think well of us; we are to learn it at home with the Father to help us. God loves you not because you are clever, not because you are good, but because He is your Father. The Cross of Christ does not make God love us; it is the outcome and measure of His love to us. He loves all His children, the clumsiest, the dullest, the worst of His children. His love lies at the back of everything, and we must get upon that as the solid foundation of our religious life, not growing up into that, but growing up out of it. "
Personal experience must come into the equation for most of us in this matter. I am blessed to have had a very tender and loving father all my life. He not only gave me an unshakeable confidence that I am acceptable no matter what I do or don't do, but I grew up out of that kindness and love expecting that the Heavenly Father's love would be the same thing, only infinite. After all, my father showed me what fathers are.
But so many of us did not have such fathers. The example of a father's love is one of judgement, harsh words, abandonment, drunkeness, abuse, absence. When we whisper the words, "Our Father," we are wary...some part inside wants to shrink from trusting anyone with that name. And even if we do want to trust we have no way of knowing how to go about it.
Of all the lessons we've had so far, this is the one that will be the hardest for us to really embrace, digging as it does deep into the heart of who we are and what we believe about ourselves. Yet this is the most vital lesson because it lays the bedrock for every interaction we have with the Lord God.
This week, will you take some time to examine this part of your relationship with God? Do you trust Him confidently as a good Father? Or are you frightened or resentful and holding back from Him? There is NO condemnation for you in Christ, remember. This isn't about failing or succeeding, this is about a tender Father wanting to heal and accept and wrap His good, strong arms around you as a papa would.
Here we are, Your children. Just saying those words brings up a host of meanings and associations and feelings for each one of us. For some of us, getting to a place where we can truly trust You and see Your Fatherhood as a good, safe place is going to take tremendous healing. We come today to ask that You would do that, Lord: heal us. Heal every hurt and fearful place in us so that we can be rooted in the solid foundation of Your love and grow out of that into a healthy, flourishing relationship with You. May we come to the place where we can say, "Our Father..." and know deep comfort and joy.
And Lord, for our earthly fathers, help us to forgive them their failings. They are just men, after all. But I tred carefully in this place because men can cause deep wounds, deep hurts. Will You minister to Your children and heal those wounds? Release us from carrying the burdens of anger and resentment. Release us from the shame and fear of failure that is rooted deep within some of our hearts. And with that release give us grace to set our earthly fathers free too. Help us forgive. Help us to love.
As You heal us, dear Lord, may we have confidence to walk into this relationship of Father and child boldly. May this relationship become fruitful with trust and provision and intimacy.
Thank You for Your gentleness and Your patient love, dear Lord.
In the precious name of Jesus.
Next week we'll be discussing chapter seven: How much more the Holy Spirit or The All-Comprehensive Gift.