Prayers with Swagger

Our Father in Heaven . . . (Matt. 6:9).

Ever prayed for a parking place? I have. Ever made fun of people who pray for a parking place? I have.

Praying for a parking place isn’t wrong, but there are some problems with that kind of praying. It’s a genie-in-the-bottle way of a dealing with God. We rub the lamp with our ‘prayer’ and get our wish. It is, in a word, immature.

But our mockery of such prayers is equally problematic. With our dismissive laughter we are saying two troubling things about our understanding of prayer. We are saying that we don’t believe God actually cares about little things like parking places. And we are also saying that should a parking place open up for us it had no connection with the prayer we prayed.

Let’s forget about parking places for now. What we’re really talking about is our confidence in prayer. Does God care about what I care about? Is God concerned with what concerns me? And furthermore, does talking to God about it really make a difference? Does prayer do anything?

Praying the Fog Away

In his book I Will Lift Up My Eyes, Glenn Clark tells a story about George Muller, who was making a journey by sea from England to Quebec. The ship encountered a very dense fog. Muller informed the Captain that he had to be in Quebec by Saturday. The Captain informed Muller that they would never be able to reach their destination by that time. At this, Muller invited the Captain to join him in praying about their predicament.

After Muller had prayed the Captain was about to speak a prayer when Muller stopped him. Placing his hand on the Captain’s shoulder, Muller told him not to pray. “Firstly,” he said, “because you do not believe God will . . . and secondly, I believe God has and there is no need whatever for you to pray about it.” When they stepped out of the cabin the fog was gone.

I’m impressed with Muller’s praying. I yearn to pray like that. But I suspect I often resemble the Captain – willing to pray but lacking confidence that it will matter. Because of this my prayers are more bland than bold.

God Cares, God Can

When Jesus gave us words to pray, he taught us to address “Our Father in heaven.” In doing so he was giving us more than mere words to speak. He was giving us confidence. That well-known and oft-repeated phrase holds the key to our confidence in prayer.

When we say “our Father” we are saying God cares. God our Father knows what we need and looks upon every need with tender compassion. Nothing escapes the notice of our heavenly Father. What concerns us concerns our Father. Knowing that God truly cares gives us confidence.

And when we say “in heaven” we are saying that God can. God is not bound as we are bound. Our limitations do not apply to our heavenly Father. As the Psalmist said, “whatever the Lord pleases he does, in heaven and on earth” (Psalm 135:6).

For the next few weeks these blog posts will consider what it means to pray boldly, to “come before the throne of grace with confidence” (Hebrews 4:16). This series of reflections will remind us that God is close, ever ready to hear us and more than sufficient for whatever it is we bring to him in prayer. Knowing that God cares and God can, we can pray with confidence.

When it comes to prayer, how’s your confidence? What’s going on in your life that would lead you to pray boldly today? Start there, and begin praying bold prayers.

Prayer:

O God, by the power of your Spirit, grant to me confidence in my praying and then let that confidence follow me through this day. Remind me moment by moment of these truths: You are our Father and you truly care about our lives. And you are in the heavens, able to do what we cannot do. We will rest in you, prayerfully, confidently, expectantly. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

3 thoughts on “Prayers with Swagger

  1. Mark, your devotional writings have always been wonderful for me! I grew up in the days before handicap stickers praying for parking spaces, and it is one of the most powerful ways my Mother taught me about prayer and her faith and confidence in her Heavenly Father. My Mother had polio as a child and it effected her ability to walk. She always wore orthopedic shoes and each step was taken with determination to go and do and never let polio get in the way. Over the years I saw God answer her prayers for a parking space when she need one and she always thanked him. She was bold and lived a life of determination or “swagger” in today’s culture until 90.

    So happy to still have your posts. It makes Bethlehem a little closer to Atlanta! Vicki Morse >

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