By Debbie Lee
Prayer matters for many reasons. But today, prayer matters because you matter.
I work as a nanny so I get a lot of one-to-one interaction with the kids I take care of. And each child, there are four of them, loves my undivided attention. When my attention strays, for whatever reason, they do what they need to to get my attention back. One child, Calvin, he places a hand on each of my cheeks and forces my head to turn until we are tete-en-tete…face to face. It’s the loveliest feeling, actually. When he turns my head I love how close he is, our noses nearly touching. I love how my big head is cradled in his small hands. I was most likely doing something important, talking to another adult about something important, but when he calls for my attention in this way I stop. Something about Calvin’s action impresses me; whatever it is he has to say is so important (it’s usually not) he has to have my undivided attention. It’s not what Calvin has to say that’s so important; rather, it’s Calvin himself that is so precious to me. I imagine that’s what prayer looks like to God. If we’re looking at prayer as a link to a relationship with Him, the words from our heart are like the two little hands that reach out to touch the Father’s face to come pay attention to how we feel, what we think, and what we have to say. He hears us, not because what we say is super significant, but because his heart melts at our boldness in knowing that my identity as a child of God supersedes anything else God has going on…and he listens.
Prayer matters because it is a place where we exercise our identity in Christ. We are no longer the sinner begging for God’s attention or an unwanted person fearful to express our needs. We are loved, desired, greatly treasured children of God. I love this verse in John chapter 1:
“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of a human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
Believing in God for our eternal salvation begins with a step of faith but the journey of loving and following Jesus continues in that vein of faith which, actually, grows in size. For many of us it is difficult to understand and believe, to picture a rosy, loving, full of affection and communication kind of relationship with a father. Not having it modeled for us in life, trying to build a relationship with this perfect Father, real yet invisible, is alien. So how do you start?
I have a loving dad. He is affectionate and kind, he loves the Lord and he loves his family. But he wasn’t very communicative. Maybe I inherited that from him, too. So when it comes to expressing what’s on my heart a lot of times I feel so muted. Because I don’t know how to put into words what’s there perhaps there is nothing there at all. What is there then to say to God? Often times there was nothing. Over the years I have been working on this. I started with a new premise not the old one rife with frustrations from a good but imperfect dad. I thought, if God wants to hear my thoughts and He will share with me His, what would I say? Thinking that God would share His thoughts with me, too, gave me new belief in what prayer with God could look like. It started off slowly; I’m terrible at speaking my heart so I would instead write them out. As I practiced this way I found my heart giving way to more honest speech, bolder prayers expressing what I felt. For me it wasn’t too difficult to believe that I am a child of God who is loved. It was difficult for me to believe that I am a loved child of God who has something to say worth hearing. When I pray I exercise my faith to say that I believe my words have value. My feelings have value. My opinions and hurts and desires have value. Some days are harder than others to fully trust and believe that this is true. I find though, that as I exercise my prayer life according to what God says is true the harder days become less and less and I find my faith growing. In God’s goodness he even shows me I’m on the right track, especially when I find my face cradled in Calvin’s hands.
Prayer matters because you matter. Don’t focus too much on your words; often, they’re just an overflow of what’s in your heart. Do you think you matter to God? I want to encourage you to start with a new premise as you approach coming to Him in prayer. Keep at it, and I pray that you will find that exercising this muscle will give way to growing faith and a richer relationship with your God.