During my recent vacation I came face-to-face with my own prayerlessness and, just as discouragingly, the realization that in many ways I don’t even know how to pray. One aspect of training myself to pray more and to pray better is to write out some of my prayers in a journal. It’s a tough discipline, that. Prayer is intimate, it is private, and here I am writing it out on paper. It seems so very foreign. To make it less strange and to help me learn how to do it, I’ve been reading other people’s written prayers.
This week I was drawn to this one from Scotty Smith, whose entire blog is written prayers. He titles this “A Prayer About Being Oblivious to the Obvious.” What i like about Scotty’s prayers is the lack of pretension. They are not full of fancy words or unnecessarily formal language. He prays to God as a son petitions his father. And I think there is a lesson for me there.
Dear Lord Jesus, every time I read this story about two of your apostles and their mom asking for a position of privilege and power in your kingdom, I find my incredulity meter going berserk. How in the world could James and John possibly think such a request would ever be at all appropriate, given the three years of mentoring and modeling you gave them? Everything you taught and the way you lived your entire incarnate life absolutely contradicted such a notion and request. How dare they, how could they be so oblivious to the obvious? What’s with these power-hungry ingrates?
But just as I climb onto my hobby-horse of disgust and judgmentalism, the gospel of grace dismounts me, and I find the freedom to ask myself these questions: How am I just like James and John? When do my words, attitudes and choices contradict the very gospel that I love and defend? Whose incredulity meter am I forcing into overdrive? Those who live with me… those who work with me? Those who taste my impatience when I’m behind a steering wheel? Those who overhear my idle chatter and self-indulgent banter in any of a number of settings? Those most exposed to my unbelief, my fears, my rudeness, my driven-ness, my insincerity, my irritability?
Lord Jesus, that I’m even in your kingdom is a testimony to greatness of your mercy and the riches of your grace. The heck with sitting on your right or left, I’m just humbled and grateful to be in your hand… in your heart… in you. I could never drink the cup you alone drank for me on the cross.
The cup I now drink and the bread I now eat, remind me of your death… unite me to your life… call me to your likeness. Lord Jesus, I don’t want to be incredulous over anyone’s sin but my own. And, through the gospel, please make me less and less oblivious to my patently obvious need for more of your transforming grace.
Jesus, you came to serve not to be served, and to give your life as a ransom for many. May your servant’s heart be cultivated in me and demonstrated through me. So very Amen, I pray, in your patient and forbearing name.