My son, Ruben, turns four in a couple of weeks. Lately he’s been doing this thing where he just says “Pappa!” (Afrikaans for ‘Daddy’) when he feels overwhelmed by the world. Like when I ask him to pick up his building blocks before dinner time… or to brush his teeth after breakfast… You know. The big issues a nearly-four-year-old faces daily.
Recently I’ve found myself doing the same thing when I pray. It feels like a lot is going on the world at the moment.
When I think of what’s happening in Afghanistan and to the people I met there: “Pappa…”
When I think of the millions who have died due to Covid-19 and the tens of millions affected globally: “Pappa…”
When I think of loved ones dealing with loss and grief: “Pappa…”
When I think of the climate crisis and its effects: “Pappa…”
When I remember the injustices of the past and the prejudice of the present: “Pappa…”
I don’t always have the words to articulate exactly what I’m feeling and praying for or about. And that’s okay, because the One I’m praying to knows me and my heart better than I do myself.
Romans 8:26-27 says:
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”
The prophet Isaiah had this to say about God’s new kingdom and the people in it (Isaiah 65:24):
“Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.”
These verses, of course, do not justify lazy prayers. If we know the details and we have the words to articulate our hearts’ desires and longings, we must use them. J.C. Ryle in his book A Call To Prayer encourages Christians to pray with particularity: “We ought not be content with great general petitions. We ought to specify our wants before the throne of grace.”
These verses are not an encouragement to be lazy in our prayers, but a reminder of Who we are praying to: the One who knows and loves us enough to send His Son, Jesus Christ, to die so that we may have eternal life; that same Son who also prayed “Pappa…” in a garden one night.
Photo by Sebastián León Prado on Unsplash