The knowledge of God's Father-love is the first and simplest, but also the last and highest lesson in the school of prayer.
- Andrew Murray
...we know that "God is love," but at heart we're not really sure that our prayer amounts to anything more than lifeless protocol demanded by a disappointed father who sniffs at us, disapproves, and exacts some sort of obeisance before he opens up the bank vault to pinch out a little trinket from his treasures. Run into his presence? Raid the fridge? Do our laundry? Ask for candy? From God? Hardly. How could we possibly think about him in that way? After all...He's the holy God, Lord of heaven and earth, who understands every thought and intention in our hearts. "And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account." Have an open and loving conversation with him? How?
Every Christian knows that we have been commanded to pray, but our prayer life is frequently cold and lifeless. It tends to be just another chore on our daily checklist. Most of us don't have the same enthusiasm about it that we have if we are going for a visit to a beloved friend's house whose generosity always dazzles us. We tend to be lazy about it because we're not thrilled about spending time with God. Could it be that our aversion to prayer is because we are trying to motivate ourselves to pray through guilt? Guilt will never eventuate in sincere prayer. Guilt never motivates us to do anything wildly loving.
This is the one chief thought on which Jesus dwells. He would have us see that the secret of effectual prayer is to have the heart filled with the father love of God. It is not enough for us to know that God is a father; he would have us come under the full impression of what that name implies. We must take the best earthly father we know; we must think of the tenderness and love with which he regards the request of his child, the love and joy with which he grants every reasonable desire. We must then, as we think in adoring worship of the infinite love and fatherliness of God, consider how with much more tenderness and joy he sees us come to him and gives us what we ask aright. And then, when we see how much this divine arithmetic is beyond our comprehension and feel how impossible it is for us to apprehend God's readiness to hear us, he would have us come and open our heart for the Holy Spirit to shed abroad God's father love there. - Andrew Murray
What you need as a praying parent is a deep drink of the great love of God, your Father,
not more commands to pray.
The Lord isn't disappointed in you or in your parenting. He's not disappointed in your prayers. He doesn't treat his dear children as "disappointments" whose obedience and failures take him by surprise or shock him. He does not suspend his love until they get their acts back together. He already knows the worst about you (in yourself) and loves and approves you nonetheless (in Christ). Although your sin does grieve him, he doesn't want you to keep your distance, sitting in a corner wearing a dunce cap until you learn your lessons. He invites you to come boldly in with joy and confidence, knowing that he is eager to embrace you. You, as a sinner who trusts his Son, Jesus, are able to do that because the Son prays and intercedes for you.
Because of Jesus, your Father delights
to hear the sound of your voice.
When we soak our soul in the grace of the gospel, we'll find out desire to spend time with him in prayer changing.
Another reason we don't pray is that we are not really desperate. The Lord is kind to make us desperate for him, but when we feel desperate we frequently don't pray. Instead we get out our books and try to figure out what we're doing wrong rather than falling on our knees and pleading with our Father for grace. We double-down our efforts to get the kids to do our bidding, and we feel as though we don't have time for prayer.
The remembrance of Christ's intercession, our Father's love for us, and our desperation are the fuel that we need to build the fire of fervent prayer in our hearts. Guilt won't do it. What we need is grace. And we need his grace in our parenting too. We need grace to see him everywhere, grace to lavish on our children.
All Christian parents are missionaries. We are all on a mission from the Lord to announce the love of the Father to our children and to encourage them, as much as we can, to believe it. We're to tell them of the law so that they know that they need rescue, and then we're to tell them of the Rescuer who has freed them from the law's curse. But this monumental task is utterly impossible for us to accomplish on our own.
We don't need to try to pray to prove that we're properly pious or really serious. Instead we pray because we are completely assured that the Father hears our prayers because they come to him through the lips of his dear Son. Are your prayers weak, scrambled, inconsistent, self-centered? Of course they are. If we think they are anything else, we are very close to sliding into the self-righteous prayer that Jesus warned against in Luke 18. Even so, we can take heart because the true cries of our heart are always voiced by the beloved Son, our great High Priest.
So, lean into him. Don't be afraid that you'll fail at this. Don't think he'll judge you because you don't say the right words with the right inflection and all the proper theology. Don't think that he'll sniff at your requests because your family is such a mess. Be assured that these things will never happen, for one simple reason: the record of our prayer has already been written.
The Father hears the perfectly worded, properly believing, and flawlessly theologically correct prayers of his beloved Son when you pray.
We can freely pour out our heart to our Father knowing that our dear Savior will purify and transform our words into petitions that please him. When your prayer is freely spoken, joyful, and honest, your children will learn to pray that way too. Teach them that he is the high King of heaven, yes, a person not to be trifled with. But also teach them that he is their dear Father, one who delights to hear their requests, even when they say them all wrong and don't have much faith and mumble them as a last resort. Go tell your Father about everything that's in your heart, and don't be afraid. The Lord Jesus is mediating for us all.