Imagine for a second that you got a phone call from a friend whom you love, but whom you hadn’t heard from in months or in years. You’d probably feel excited to hear from him and eager to know what has been going on in his life since you last spoke to each other. You’d probably want to share some things that have been on your heart as well. You’ve got time; so you settle in for a long conversation, looking forward to a fruitful exchange.
Instead what you get is this: Your friend rattles off a long list of things he wants and demands that you get them. He doesn’t pause to hear anything you have to say. He makes no inquires of you. As a matter of fact, when you attempt to enter the conversation, he talks over you before hanging up in your face without even saying goodbye. You know that you won’t hear from him again until he has constructed yet another long list of wants, at which time he will call you again, and act out the exact same scenario. You would be extremely offended if any “friend” treated you this way.
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Well God’s got at least as much sense as you do. Imagine how your self-centered prayers make him feel. Many people only talk to God when they want or need something. Then they treat him like a bellboy, whose job it is to “fetch” their desires. If we are to engage God in any meaningful way, we might consider using Dr. Larry Crabb’s model of prayer called the P.A.P.A. Prayer, from the book of the same name. Dr. Crabb suggests that we engage God in the following manner.
1. Present yourself to God – vomit up everything that is in you, both good and bad. Be real, tell God how you feel about whatever situations you face, people you are dealing with, and him. Expose yourself emotionally. God can handle it.
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2. Attend to how you are thinking of God – if you envision God as a cosmic bellboy, be honest about that. But choose to see him as he presents himself in the Bible. Dr. Crabb refers to the apostle John’s encounter with Christ, chronicled in Revelation 1:12-17 as a really good way to envision the Lord. Of course there are many other places in scripture where God reveals himself and his character. Select one of these and decide this is the God whom you are addressing. My personal favorite is to envision God as the God of creation in Genesis 1-2. I certainly can’t confuse him with a bellboy after meditating on those passages.
3. Purge yourself of anything that is blockage between you and God – this is where you confess all of the sin in your life that you are aware of…yelling at your kids on the way to school, harboring resentment toward your in-laws, cursing out your co-worker, flipping off that driver who cut you off, sneaking a peek or twelve at your favorite porn site, lying to your boss, lying to your kids, cheating on your husband, hanging onto old grudges…you get the idea. Tell God all of it, out loud. Agree with him that it is wrong (a.k.a. sin). Then ask for forgiveness and repent.
4. Approach God as the “First Thing” in your life – now you’re ready to ask God for all that crap you think you want/need. Some of it is probably legitimate – especially the character improvement issues. But you know what? You’re engaging in real prayer with God. And you’re coming to him with an understanding that He is most important – period. You’ve started by coming clean. And no doubt as you have meditated on Who He is, you’ve probably found some good reasons to be thankful, too. Now you can ask for what you need in a more respectful, less self-centered manner.
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Now you are prepared to be still and listen. I often don’t get any promptings right away, but I sit still for a while anyway. It’s just good manners, if nothing else. I show God the respect of waiting patiently for a while. I personally like to remain in a posture of prayer all day, open to hear from God as He deposits into my spirit. When I remember to pray the P.A.P.A. prayer, I find that prayer is much more rewarding, enjoyable, and refreshing, than just dropping of my “laundry list.”
I even look forward to it.
Be blessed Family!