I’m spending the week with the grandkids—doing a lot of Lego, swinging, reading, and a lot of being an appreciative audience… which leaves just a little time for reflecting, and most of those thoughts are on parenting.
It occurs to me that one profession bound to aid the disciple of Jesus along the path of humility is parenting! Maybe not at first. They are so cute, so clever, so perfect, so OURS… Then comes reality. Of who we are, of who they are. Yes, cute. Yes, clever. But no, not any more perfect than us. And we pray, “Lead us not into temptation. Deliver us from evil.” And HELP!!! we haven’t what it takes to do this job! Rescue us from our messes! This starts in the toddler years but does it ever end? this need for a Saviour? Not yet for me. I only hope to learn to pray in the process.
I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer these days, wanting to get back to the simplicity of it and shake off tradition and formality. Ironically that brings me back to the prayer Jesus gave as a model:
"Our Father in heaven, Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…" I haven’t really gotten past that yet. Though this verse has been construed to mean strange unBiblical things, its essence is a request that God be glorified, that His will be done in every facet of our lives between birth and the grave…. It implies a relinquishment of my will in submission to His, not primarily for my benefit, but for His Kingdom’s sake. I often find prayer stressful, coming as I do with my urgent desires (and sometimes my perceived solutions which I have no means of attaining on my own). But though God welcomes our petitions, prayer is not a twisting of His arms or an asserting of my rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for me and mine (or any other good thing).
My best counselor and friend (my husband!) reminds me again and again that prayer is about aligning our wills to God's, not about asking, begging or demanding anything. It's not about getting everything in order in my sphere but rather reorienting my will to be His will, submitting my will to His.
I've been noticing this thing about 'wills' lately. Parents of toddlers have fresh object lessons ever before them but sometimes I forget how much my own will hates to be thwarted. When I insist that someone do something, anything, the way I see best, it's ME that is made miserable (or at the very least irritated) when that someone doesn't align their will with mine. Their 'obstinence' (really the exercise of their free will) thwarts my will. The result: conflict, agitation, unrest, (and maybe a spanking?!).
When I do this in prayer, the results are similar.
But the instant I let go my insistence that the other person do what I want, there is relief. With a toddler of course a parent must win these wars. Between adults, and grown children, and ultimately God, the outcome is less predictable. Will I surrender or insist? With surrender comes relief. The mounting stress is gone! I don't have to be in control. Maybe I do know what's best for the other person, and then again, maybe I don't. My perspective is so limited, so short term. Either way, letting go the need to control is such a relief.
I’m wanting to find this relief in the way that I pray. When my greatest desires seem thwarted, the outcomes not my ideals, can I just cast them in God’s lap and let Him determine what’s best? What might He want in this situation? Am I willing to hand my messes over to Him and trust Him with the long term possibilities to work in all things for His Kingdom purposes and His own greatest glory? I gravitate to Cinderella stories—with their happily-ever-after endings. Life seldom dishes such out, at least not till seen through the lens of eternity.
But we are told to pray, to cast cares, to trust and to seek God’s Kingdom above any agendas of our own, His Kingdom and His righteousness.
There may be a lot of humble floor-scrubbing before the prince comes to redeem His own. But it will have been worth the wait. In the meantime we pray: Thy will be done on earth, in our lives, in our families, in our communities, in our world. And we present ourselves, His subjects to do His bidding, and to leave the results to Him.
“Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.” Rev.11:15-17
The title of this post comes from a sermon transcript by John Piper that so ‘hit the spot’ for me—the concept that casting our cares on God is an act requiring and exhibiting humility, the prerequisite for being care-free. Interesting premise drawn from I Peter 5. Have a look and/or a listen here: