Learning to pray is like learning to walk.
A friend of mine posted a video on Instagram of her baby girl’s first steps. Her chubby little legs moved awkwardly, knees coming up at funny angles and feet planting down in different directions. She wobbled from side to side. I held my breath waiting for her to fall at any moment. Except she didn’t. Instead, she giggled as she came towards the camera.
The baby had not only discovered a delightful new way to move around, but she also walked towards the safety of her mother’s arms. No doubt, her mom had been encouraging her. If she hadn’t been holding the camera, my friend’s arms would have been open wide, coupled with words like: “come here. You can do it. Mommy’s waiting.”
God, as a parent, uses similar words to encourage us to come to him. “‘Here am I, here am I.’ He says. All day long I have held out my hands.” Can you sense God’s eagerness and longing for people to turn to him? Unfortunately, God’s people had been ignoring his pleas and going about their lives without him.
But, God’s intent is much more than we could hope for.
Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. That should be enough to make us giggle in delight even though our praying might be clumsy.
In the Practice of Prayer course I did at seminary, the professor had us praying within the first few minutes of class. He asked us to imagine coming into God’s throne room and for five minutes to silently repeat the name “Abba.” I didn’t have a problem with imagining a throne room. That comes easy to a Brit. Not that I’ve ever been in the Queen’s throne room but I’ve visited plenty of ancient English castles.
Yet, as I imagined standing between white marble pillars at the entrance, it was like my feet were glued to the ground. I stood unmoving as the minutes ticked away. I hung my head. Tears seeped from the corners of my eyes. Why did I feel so messed up? I’d been praying for years — I ran prayer groups, prayed in church, and in the car. But, in those few minutes I realized I had neglected to give my heavenly Father my full attention. And, I felt ashamed of my behavior.
The pressure was on, though. I wanted to be a good student and not fail at my first assignment. As the time slipped away I lifted my foot, heavy as lead, and took a step towards God’s throne. “Abba,” I said. The first step is the hardest, right?
God doesn’t want us to stay stuck in the doorway.
God wants us to come to him, no matter how messy or awkward we may feel. He’s a Father who delights in people turning to him.
So, I invite you to shift your concern from when you should pray and what you should say.
Instead, imagine God holding out his arms waiting for you. Expect his pleasure in seeing you take your first wobbly step, because he knows this is the beginning of you moving closer to him.
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