I have very fond memories of our kids playing team sports at a young age. Who doesn’t love watching a pack of boys and girls chasing a soccer ball around a field like a swarm of bees. Similarly, the puck on the ice seemed like a magnet floating across the ice rink, pulling packs of kids all around in what apparently was an ice hockey game. As much fun as it was to watch those early years when the kids were four or five years old, it was also fun to watch them, and their teams, develop to where they were playing a more organized version of the game. Each year, you would see incremental improvement, whether that was playing their positions or even developing tactics. What once was quite elementary, became quite advanced and impressive.
I have a strong inclination that God must sometimes see and hear us pray and experience something akin to kids running around aimlessly. God is gracious and certainly has grace for new believers or young Christians who do not yet fully understand prayer, who think its purpose is to get things from God. But what if we are “mature” Christians and yet still treat prayer in the same way? Paul would call us “infants” (1 Corinthians 3:1-2).
Today’s scripture shows us Jesus’ heart when it comes to the matter of prayer. If you read Matthew 6:1-8, you will see that prayer is all about coming into fellowship with God; it is speaking with him, not just to him. “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6). Jesus goes on to even outline what our prayers should look like, as he describes what we now call “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13). You will notice that it begins with glorifying God (vs 9), it then moves on to desiring that God’s will be done on this earth (vs 10), and then moves on to requesting God to provide for our needs. The prayer ends with requesting forgiveness as we forgive others and requesting that God protect us from the evil one.
There is a very popular movement in churches today to pray for God to “lavish” himself on us as Christians, to not only provide for us, but to “prosper” us financially. This prosperity gospel claims that all we need to do is ask with faith (and of course contribute financially) and God will financially reward you beyond your wildest dreams. In my opinion such prayers are at best immature, and at worst sinful. Jesus instructs us to pray for “Our Daily Bread”, not for the floodgates of heaven to open up and drop $100 bills. Advanced prayer, the type of prayer that Jesus demonstrated, was a prayer of communion with God and a desperate desire to partake in what God was doing. “Lord what is your will, and how can I partake in what you are doing (whether that means I will be blessed on this earth, or whether I suffer for your name’s sake)?” This is advanced prayer, and it is the type of prayer that causes God to smile and say, “Well done my good and faithful servant”. “Prayer is not simply getting things from God – that is only the most elementary kind of prayer. Prayer is coming into perfect fellowship and oneness with God.” (My Utmost For His Highest, September 16, Oswald Chambers).