Still reading Phillip Yancey’s incredible book entitled simply and descriptively, Prayer. Part Three of the book has produced more reflection and insight than the first two parts (there are five total parts).
Yancey summarizes the Lord’s Prayer by saying that Jesus was essentially saying…
- Keep it simple.
- Keep it honest.
- Keep it up.
“Mainly, Jesus pressed home that we come as beloved children to a Father who loves us in advance and cares deeply about our lives. Ask young parents what is the correct way for their toddlers to approach them and you will probably get a puzzled look. Correct way? Being a parent means you do your best to remain available to your children and responsive to their needs. As Jesus said, if a human parent responds with compassion and not hostility, how much more will God.”
Hebrews 4.15 says, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Indeed, one of the most charming and thankful reminders of Yancey’s book is not the correct way to pray but simply to pray.
I’m also intrigued in this chapter by how Yancey suggests that since we all have differing temperaments, that perhaps how we relate to God may be more specially shaped by how He uniquely created us than we have realized. We may struggle under a load or burden of an “ineffective” prayer life, all the while being guilty that our prayer lives are not like someone else’s.
Rather, we should seek to relate to God in the way that we most naturally relate to others. Prayer is not a trade to be learned but a relationship to embrace.
He advocates the use of the Psalms to jumpstart, direct and inform a prayer life. In fact, in one powerful story, he tells of Lutheran theology professor Martin Marty whose wife was undergoing chemotherapy for terminl cancer. He began a practice of reading the Psalms to her when they got up in the middle of the night for a medication dosage to relieve nausea. He would read the Psalms to her until they got sleepy again.
One night, she caught him skipping from Psalms 87 to Psalm 91. Martin had skimmed ahead and decided the language of the Psalms in between might be more disturbing than his wife needed at the moment. Verses like “…my life draws near the grave, I am counted among those who go down to the pit…” just didn’t seem encouraging or appropriate.
However, she caught him in his omission and asked, “Why did you skip those Psalms?” When Martin responded that he had neglected them due to their nature, she responded, “Go back. Read it. If I don’t deal with the darkness, the others won’t shine out.”
In prayer, our simple honesty should permeate our petitions. It is our relationship with God that is foundational, not our work in prayer. We talk to God and remember that He has invited us before His presence. We come with an invitation from the King to the Banquet of All Times.
I hope you’ll be encouraged to dive into prayer like into a swimming pool on a hot day. Relish it, enjoy Him. Pour out your heart. Listen. Reflect.
By the way, I’d highly recommend the book, even without finishing it yet.