What pictures come to mind when you think of God? When you spend a few moments (or an extended length of time) in prayer, who do you picture in your mind’s eye you’re making your requests to?
Here’s what I’ve observed in my time in pastoral ministry; a person’s relationship with their earthly father often has a tremendous influence on how receptive they will be to their heavenly Father. In that period of time;
- I’ve ministered to people who viewed God as a cosmic cop who was always at the ready to “pull them over” if they crossed any of the clearly stated commandments.
- I've counseled people who viewed God as a talent show judge who never seemed to be pleased with their efforts.
- Some that I've spoken with saw God as a sweet (tired) old man who was powerless to effect any real change in their live.
- Then there were those who saw God as a supersize vending machine who was obligated to hear them if they were genuine in their petition.
In many of those conversations, when I dug deeper, it turned out that “God” was simply a magnification of the tendencies of their earthly parents. Incidentally, the scripture very frequently describes God as a Father, (minus all the unhealthy emotional junk our earthly father/parents carried), but you of course probably already knew this. So let’s just get to the heart of the matter. Here’s why God is more eager to answer your prayers than you’re willing to ask.
+++ GOD INITIATED THE RELATIONSHIP, YOU DIDN’T.
When we picture the process through which we got saved from our sins and reconciled back to God through faith in Jesus, we often picture it as us flailing in rough waters crying out for help. Then God, hearing our cry for help, runs to the shore, dives in to rescue us and pulls us out just in time before we begin sinking. That’s cute. But completely inaccurate.
A more realistic picture is one where we’ve drowned and sunk to the bottom of the ocean. Dead. Unable to breathe. Unable to cry out for help. Dead. Then God, out of great loving care and initiative, leaves His opulent mansion, gets a boat and diving gear, tracks down our lifeless body, dives to the depths of the ocean and pulls us back to shore. Upon pulling us out, He gives us CPR-like-you-wouldn’t-believe, and breathes NEW life into us.
That’s how we got saved.
Unfortunately, that’s where most people stop. I say it’s unfortunate because theologically speaking, on the cross, Jesus not only canceled the debt we owed God and removed the curse of judgment we deserved, but He also gives us the blessings HE deserves so that God now welcomes us as sons and daughters with the joy and celebration Jesus deserves.
So, returning back to our ocean/sinking illustration; it means that after pulling us out of the water and resuscitating us to life, God invites us into His home, adopts us as sons and daughters, and then appoints us as heirs of all He owns. Considering the fact that He already has a Son, we become “co-heirs”, which means that someday we will get to share with the Son everything the Father has promised to Him. (Not a bad gig at all when you consider what we were rescued from, right?). It’s a realization of this profound truth that compels the apostle Paul to write this in Ephesians 1:5-6, “In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”
+++ YEAH, BUT WHAT'S IN IT FOR ME??
But of course, you probably already knew most of this. The question you’re wrestling with is, “If I am indeed a son or daughter of God, and all He owns will someday be mine, why do I have to plead or beg so much for Him to give me stuff TODAY??”
I’m glad you asked. The apostle Paul, Christianity’s leading theologian, answers that for us in Galatians 4:1-7. Here's the basic gist of the passage. Though we are no longer “children [who] are not much better off than slaves”, (because Jesus already bought our freedom and we’ve been adopted by God), our “inheritance” is still not YET fully accessible. It’s being kept in a sort-of “TRUST” for us until “a time set by the Father.”
There are seasons in your Christian walk when you may experience glimpses of the riches and blessings of your inheritance, but you won’t fully possess it in this life. A day is coming however, where every follower of Jesus Christ will FULLY step into their inheritance and receive from the Father all He has promised to them as Sons and Daughters, as heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. That day will be like no other. It’s the day prophets of old were speaking of when they said, “In those days… I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!”
So what does this all have to do with your prayer life today?
+++ SNAP OUT OF IT, AND INTO IT!
Permit me to be as direct as possible. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, Stop Acting Like A Spiritual Destitute, Or Like You’re Spiritually Broke! Stop begging and pleading with God for blessings, provision, or protection as if you were some sorta street rogue! YOU ARE AN HEIR OF GOD! A CO-HEIR WITH CHRIST! Though you may not be in full possession of all that God has declared to be rightly yours, you are positional - ROYALTY, and of ROYAL BLOOD! This means that you may approach God's throne of grace, the throne of YOUR FATHER with a humble confidence that you will receive mercy and grace for your help in time of need.
Secondly, you need to stop acting like God is out to get you! Let’s face it, if He were really out to do so, you’d be toast already. Sure, you have struggles in your life as a follower of Christ that clouds your communion with God, but those sins DO NOT sever your relationship with the Father. The Biblical FACT of the matter is that God will finish what He began in you.
So, park that!
God is inviting you to enjoy your prayer moments with Him. So come cheerily. Prayer shouldn’t be laborious, but full of freedom, warmth, and passion. You don’t need to rehearse your words or get it “just right”, God is more eager to hear you than you are to make your prayers known.
It’s what the apostle Paul is getting at in verse 6 when he says, “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” The Holy Spirit (who moved into the apartment of your heart when God adopted you, as an assurance that you belong to God) resides there to continually remind you that your Father in heaven still loves you and wants to hear from you. He's also there to direct your mind how to pray the sort of prayers that God answers, hence you need to be sensitive and attentive to His leading so you know when to persist by faith in a request, and when to "wrap it up cos God just ain't going there!"
In light of this, quit bellyaching about your struggles, shortcomings, and failures, YOUR FATHER OWNS THE PLACE! More importantly, He welcomes you with open arms because you’re an adopted son/daughter of His whom He will someday joyfully entrust with all He has.
So, why is it that your next prayer will be answered? Because now you know EXACLY how God sees you, hence your attitude will be different in how you approach Him; so much so that even if you don't receive what you asked Him for when you want it, you can rest in the fact that He's looking out for you because He knows WHAT is best for you and WHEN it is best for you!