If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
The devil only has like 3 or 4 tricks. That says more about us than it does about him, though. We keep falling for them. One of his favorites is to take God’s gifts and trick us into thinking they’re burdens.
Listen to how Christians talk about prayer. Not unbelievers. Not pagans. Christians. You can hear his whispers. “Prayer is how you get stuff from God.” “I trust in the power of prayer.” “I need your prayers right now”. It’s wonderful that people turn to the things God gives. It’s heartbreaking to see God’s gifts treated like curses.
Listen. You can hear the difference. Do we talk about prayer like a child calling to a father he trusts in the middle of the night? Or like a way to annoy God by banging on His door until He gives us what we want? Are we knocking because we want to be closer to our God who takes care of us? Or because we think we figured out a magic spell to get what we want? This is where the devil turns gifts to burdens. Never-mind it makes God look like the bad guy who has to be won over.
This is the quiet fear the devil plants. If you don’t hold up your end of the deal by praying enough or really meaning it, your God who claims to love you will leave you in the lurch. We don’t like to talk about it, but ignoring that fear only lets it settle in. It dares to think your neighbor actually cares more about you than the God who died on the cross for you because you can get strangers on facebook to pray for you, but the God who could fix it in less than a second doesn’t seem like He’s paying attention. It dares to think we need that many people to pray or God won’t help. Almost as if He sits in heaven and only helps the popular kids who get enough likes and shares on a prayer chain. Never-mind the scriptures say there’s more rejoicing in heaven over one singular voice who repents than 99 who need no repentance.
These fears based on lies hit puberty and get all awkward in the idea that we are prayer warriors or some other nonsense thing that isn’t in the bible. But if we’re warriors, that means we have to fight someone. And since Christ conquered the devil at calvary, who’s left to fight but God? The idea that prayer is our burden means not only do we have to know better than God, but we also have to care more. If we don’t pray, He won’t help.
In all of it the devil would paint a picture of a stupid and selfish God who stands as the bad guy our heroic prayers must conquer. It would lead us to see God the same way satan does. See how evil these paths always look in the end? See the devil paint a picture of our God the opposite of who He is.
Then be honest, really honest, about what drives us to treat prayer this way. We’re afraid. We’re sinners. It’s why prayer can be so stressful. Not just that we know we don’t do it enough, but that the really important ones leave us naming everything that’s wrong, everything easier to ignore, and waiting for God to speak back even though we know He isn’t going to. It’s why that kind of prayer doesn’t make us feel better until we see the results.
We’ve made prayer about stuff, not God. So until we get what we’ve been pounding on the door for, it feels like sending a text and getting left on read while everything that keeps us awake at night breaths down our neck. Tell me this isn’t the evil one at work. Tell me you really think that’s what God wants for His children.
The devil only has like 3 or 4 tricks. It says more about God than it does about satan that Jesus would shape our prayer to silence the devil’s whispers. He speaks against the lies of the devil. “Pray like this. Father.”
There’s a reason the prayer starts the way it does. Our Father who art in heaven. With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.
Prayer is a gift. You should pray. When you’re afraid and when you’re grateful. Because it’s not about how you feel. It’s about who your God is. He’s your Father in heaven who loves you like a dear child. Prayer is not about stuff. Prayer is about comfort.
You have a Father in heaven who loves you. He hasn’t forgotten you. He hasn’t forsaken you. He isn’t waiting for you to do something right or say enough magic spells before He’ll help you. I can prove it. Look at the cross.
This is love. This is God remembering you, not according to your sin, your idolatry, your fear, or whether or not you said enough prayers. This is Him remembering you in mercy. This is Him forgiving your sins and conquering the devil and winning for you the kingdom. The Father sent the Son who taught us to pray, then died for you before you could ever whisper a single prayer. He answered before you asked.
This cross is Him rescuing you from all evil. He died there to it all so that you would live. He is risen to prove that even if all the things we think we need when we pray are ripped from us, He’ll just give them back. Christ is risen, and you will rise too. Free from pain, sickness, want, and death. Free from the lies of the evil one. Free to live. And you have that same freedom today. You have a Father in heaven. I’m not a better father for giving my kids everything they ask for as long as they’re annoying enough. So why would God be a better God for treating prayer that way? He saves sinners in love. He does what is good for us, whether or not we understand it or like it. So we don’t measure what we understand or like. We measure His love. Look at the cross. He loves you that much. He has already rescued us, but loves us so much He gives us the gift of prayer to comfort us along the way.
Prayer is about comfort because it’s about God, not stuff. That’s why it starts with Father. Him, not stuff. Him, not us. Father. From there, we are reminded who our God is in the face of what’s wrong. Each petition that follows it paints a picture of the God who has this stuff under control. Do you think you could make God’s name less holy if you tried? Do you think God’s will needs your permission or prayer to be done? These things will be even without your prayers, but the gift is that He shows us how He will bring them about in us also. Pray. And not just for yourself. Pray for your neighbors in need.
Pray for the sick the same way you stub your toe on the table, just maybe without the dirty words. You might have forgotten your little toe until you stub it, but right then, it’s your whole world. You might feel unimportant or overlooked here, but we are the body of Christ. If you hurt, we hurt. And if you have need, we’re worried enough to want to see you better. The gift is we can all look to the same source for help. The God who saves sinners. Your Father who art in heaven. Who’s holy name and righteous will are given to you and done for you that you would be given daily bread, forgiveness of your debts, and deliverance from evil. That you would be given the cross of Christ to measure whether these things work rather than stuff to make idols out of. Look to that cross and see Your Father’s answer to your prayers. His son speaks to everything you need and everything He’d win for you. It is finished. Before you knocked, the doors were already opened.