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Prayer Is Inviting God

One of my preaching professors used to tell me that he’d encountered a lot of people who looked at God like a great vending machine in the sky. They thought they could pay him with their prayers and he would give them whatever they asked for. Or at least that’s how it was supposed to work.

Of course I don’t think any of us consciously thinks that way. But I’m afraid that’s how we often think of God, actually. Or maybe you could just say that we think of God as being primarily there to serve us. Like God’s purpose is to help us with the things that we need or to give us nice things we want. God is here for us.

But what we’re doing when we pray—yeah, we’re asking God for help; but really what we’re doing is inviting him into our lives. And that means a lot more than daily bread.

C.S. Lewis captures what I mean well in his book Mere Christianity. He says, “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

That’s what it’s like, inviting God in. And that’s really what it means to pray.

When we pray, we’re asking for God’s will to enter into our lives. And maybe we’ve come to him with some specific need or desire. But God has a mind of his own, and he very much likes to do what he will.

So in a sense, praying is not just getting things from God (as though he were that giant vending machine in the sky). Praying means getting God himself…and all that comes with him.

Prayer with me. Father, we think that what we really need is what we want you to give us. But you keep showing us that what we really need is you and everything you want to bring into our lives. But we often don’t want to invite you in like that because we don’t really want to change or to go through hard things. We don’t want you tearing down our walls that we’ve so carefully constructed! Please forgive us our fearfulness, and help us to embrace you as our Lord and our God. Please come in. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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