“Nothing tends more to cement the hearts of Christians than praying together. Never do they love one another so well as when they witness the outpouring of each other’s hearts in prayer.” Charles G. Finney
Recently, I finished reading The Comeback by Louie Giglio. One chapter is about the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It’s a favorite of Jesus’ parables for many Christians. I know that it’s one of mine. Most focus on the son’s sin and the father’s love and forgiveness. Louie Giglio suggested something that I’d never thought about – What was the son thinking when he saw his father running down the path toward him?
When the son started to get close to home, his Dad didn’t miss it. His father was eagerly waiting and just needed to see the top of his son’s head coming over the horizon. He pulls up his robe and this noble father sprints down the road, past the servants, past the gate, past the whole village, down the lane toward his son.
The son must have thought the worst. First it was, Who’s the old man running down the road? Then it was, Oh no, that’s Dad. He’s so irate that he doesn’t want to wait for me to get to the house to crush me; he wants to crush me in full view of the whole town. But that’s not how it went down. In fact, it’s the only time in Scripture where God is portrayed as being in a hurry, because God is always in a hurry to forgive.
As I thought about the son’s fears, it resonated with me. If I’d blown it and finally came home, and I’d seen my Dad running to meet me, I’d have expected the worst. There wasn’t much grace or forgiveness with my Dad.
Here’s the problem – our view of God is colored by our view of our Dad. It took me years to realize that God wasn’t going to slap me silly or chew me out because I’d blown it again. God’s Word has been such a healing medicine for me over the years to help me realize who my heavenly Father truly is. Passages like Romans 8:1 have been healing balm for my wounded soul, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Or, Psalms 103:13-14, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.”
The reason that I’m sharing this is that my unbiblical view of God greatly contaminated my prayer life for many years. I kept waiting for the hammer to fall. Sadly, I know that I am not alone. A distorted view of who God truly is hinders many of His children from praying.
Some years ago sociologists from Baylor did a study about our view of God. I’m not sure how many believers were surveyed, but they discovered that 31.4% of Americans envision the Almighty as The Authoritarian God. They see him as deeply involved in the world, but angry at what He sees. God wants us to do right, but harsh judgments are pending for those who don’t. Another 24% visualize God as The Distant Deity, seeing Him as uninvolved, detached. Another 16% see God as The Critical God, judgmental, censorious and highly critical.
While scholars and sociologists dissect the data, the key to a correct and comprehensive view of God is not found in polls, surveys, studies or even experience. It’s found in the Bible. It’s found in God’s Word.
Our view of God though greatly effects our prayer life. If you see God as some angry tyrant, like Pharaoh or the Wizard of Oz, you’re not going to be motivated to pray. Or, if you think that you have to beg and twist God’s arm to get Him to even listen, you’re not going to want to pray.
There are many other reasons that we don’t pray either individually or corporately. For many, our past has contaminated our present relationship with God. It’s truly “fake news.” That’s not our heavenly Father. It’s why we can encourage you to pray both alone and together. We need to be a church who trusts our Father and consistently prays together.
The Lord blessed me with wonderful and godly adopted parents, Dad and Mom Cummins. They helped me begin to learn who my Heavenly Father truly is. They modeled godly parental love. Please understand, they held me accountable and let me know when I crossed a line. It was always done though with love, forgiveness and hope. It sowed seeds in my soul that blossomed into a growing faith that I can come to my Father with anything at any time.
One specific incident probably sealed this in my heart more than any other. In my early twenties, I’d finished my junior year at Bible college and I began to doubt everything; Was the Bible true? Was there really a God? Did He love me? It was my own, what one writer called, “A Dark Night of the Soul.” In the midst of this spiritual muddle, I had a meeting with a former Bible college professor and pastor who ended up treating me horribly. He said things to me that were some of the most cruel and harshest I’d ever heard…and none of it was true (It came out later that he was covering up his own sin of adultery). But I was so hurt, so ambushed, so broken and so angry all at once. It was everything that I could do to not hop in my car and leave everything…forever. But I calmed down enough to call Dad Cummins. I was so hurt, I was screaming into the phone and he gently urged me to come home, and I did.
Though it was a Saturday night and Dad had to preach the next day, I drove through the night and arrived home about 2 am. And Dad Cummins was waiting up for me! I fell into his huge arms weeping and he wept too. And I think for the very first time in my life, I finally knew a bit what my Heavenly Father was like.
This year we’re focusing on prayer as a church family. Maybe you’ve dodged prayer because you’ve had a distorted view of who your Heavenly Father is. If you’re his child, He’s the Dad you’ve always dreamed of having but He’s innumerable times greater. You can come to Him anytime, anywhere, about anything. He loves you and longs for you to come to Him.
Please though don’t come alone, come with your regenerate brothers and sisters. Let’s come to our Abba Father together and see the windows of heaven opened. During 2019 and more, let’s move forward on our knees!
Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, Gracechurchwi.org. Or, call us at 262.763.3021. If you'd like to know more about how Jesus can change your life, I'd love to mail you a copy of how Jesus changed my life in "My Story." E-mail me at Carson@gracechurchwi.org to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address.