By George Caruso
“I can’t do anything by myself. I can only do what I see my dad doing”
Paul Miller, who led the “A Praying Life” seminar, wrote these words in front of the group, asking for a response. I had a similar reaction to others; either these are the words of a toddler, or this person lacks confidence, independent thinking, and intelligence. Then Paul revealed this was a paraphrase of Jesus’ own words: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19). Okay, Paul got my attention with that one. Jesus was perfectly human, yet He was the most dependent person that ever lived. It was convicting to see the practical value I place on self-sufficiency in my daily life. And it was a great reminder that my external experiences and internal inadequacies should continually drive me to my heavenly Father in prayer. Absence of prayer is evidence that I am trusting in my own strength and ability, and not trusting God with the people in my life.
I also appreciated Paul’s attempt to make prayer somehow less intimidating. It was encouraging to hear common struggles with prayer from other believers, such as distractions, guilt, busyness, unbelief. I myself tend to over-think the prayer experience, and search for the right words and try to muster up sufficient faith. Scripture reading and study come much more naturally to me, while I often see prayer as a discipline that needs to be executed properly to be effective. Prayer is a means to commune with God. It’s about a Person, not a process. The best advice from Paul was to “go to God as you are.” Two analogies were helpful for me. As a child with a parent, I can reach out to God consumed with my own needs (just don’t expect Him to keep me there). And just like a conversation with a friend, prayer can be unplanned and can often meander.
And finally, what I find most amazing about prayer is that God invites it, even desires it. Or maybe that could be more accurately said, God desires us. “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). That’s quite an invitation to turn down.