I struggled for years just getting started in prayer. Based on Psalm 66:18, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:”, I was told that I should start prayer with confession of sin. So, for about 2 years I dutifully began every scheduled prayer time right there. Through experience, I came to find this to be a poor place to start. Here’s why. Every time I came to God’s throne, I had to wade through my sin. As a young believer this was very condemning. Here is what normally happened. I would start to pray, confessing my sin, and before long I felt like the miserable wretch I actually was, and I began to wonder why God would want to hear from me at all. Needless to say I didn’t get very far. After about 15 minutes of that, I was done.
After a while, I pretty much stopped confessing my sin to the Lord. Then I began to just pray for other people and the things that I needed. Funny thing, after about 15 minutes I was done with that too. I also had this nagging feeling that I was not growing closer to the Lord. It started to feel like God was some cosmic Jeanie hidden in the lamp of prayer. My prayer life grew empty, and pretty soon, I was skipping that time altogether and just reading my Bible. I’m a studier, studying is my sweet spot. So, my fellowship with the Lord did grow as I grew in my knowledge of His Word. But still, prayer was a glaring weak spot in my walk with Him. So I did what all studiers do…… I did a prayer study. It was then I struck prayer gold. Here’s where I found it.
As a kid, I didn’t grow up in church, so I didn’t know the Lord’s Prayer very well. I thought studying the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:7-14, would be a great place to start a study on prayer. After all I reasoned, Jesus probably knows a little something about the topic of prayer. Turns out, my hunch was right, He does. It was in the first few words of the Lord’s Prayer that I found a wide door that ushered me into the Presence of God, and gave me the beginnings a lifetime love of prayer.
“Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.” (Matthew 6:7b) I began, based on this verse, to start my prayer times by drawing near to my loving Heavenly Father. I would begin, literally saying, Heavenly Father, I come to you as a son. I started to understand that I didn’t have to list all my failures before I crawled up into His lap to spend time with Him. This became especially clear after my first son was born. Christian (my son) never came running up to me when I got home from work in the afternoon and saying, “daddy, daddy, I completely failed you today”. Instead he came running and jumped into my arms and just said, “daddy”, and we embraced. It was the high point of my day. It was what I looked forward to on my drive home. I began to understand that because of the Gospel, this is exactly the way (except magnified 10,000 times) that God, our “Heavenly Father”, feels about His people. He sent His only begotten Son to live and die for us, so that fellowship with Him would not only become possible, but full of unspeakable joy and unfathomable pleasures. Through drawing near to God as my Father, I came to truly understand what the Psalmist meant when he said, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)