Again on our home school schedule, right at the top, is the daily requirement of Bible and prayer. It has been there as long as there has been a school schedule in our unscheduled lives. But this year I have chosen to torture the children and really require that they pray. Not just crossing it off the list, or quick praying before we eat, or passing the prayer basket, but to dive deep into conversations with the Almighty. To make it worse, they have to do it sitting next to their brothers and sisters. And, harder yet, most of them aren't saved.
The pull came out of a personal desire, a need for an accounting in my own prayer life which has leaned more towards the Jonah side: fleeing from God rather than drawing near. Numbness is easier than the constant tears, so I've chosen that route rather than bowing before my Creator; traded wooden floors and humbleness for a comfortable recliner and cup of coffee. Mornings are hard enough. Conquering the flesh, getting to gratitude for a son in Heaven before my feet hit the old wooden floor has been something that I've too easily passed over. And, because of that choice, find myself heading straight towards apathy. Holding God at arm's length rather than daring to draw near.
Personal prayer with God alone is powerful, but as Scripture says, where two or more are gathered Christ is there as well (Matthew 18:20). Corporate prayer breaks down walls that we easily hide behind when our eyes are wide open, and especially when we live together twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, with no escape from each other than the occasional cross country practice. Our battle weapons get dull when we don't refuel with honesty and by drawing deep from God's well. My greatest desire is to see God glorified through my children, and that will only happen when my children are truly satisfied in Him, so I have set off on a determined effort to train them up and give them the daily habit of authenticity before their maker.
Have you been there? Real, raw, spiritually naked before God?
Lately I find myself not even needing to tell God my heart, not faking the hurt, because He knows. The searcher of hearts knows. My sister reminds me that I am right where He wants me. Right now I don't like where He wants me and He knows it, so there is no point of denying it. Not in anger pointed at God, but honest, lay it all out on the alter, sort it out, hash it out for the ten-thousandth time until joy in God's plans becomes my honest joy. But the majority of that starts with prayer. And prayer is hard work.
After the giggles around the kitchen island, God lead the kids and I to begin our prayer session with acknowledgement of who He is. As children who have been raised in church events their whole lives my kiddos know how to start and end prayer. "Thank you God for this, and heal so-and-so, amen." How pathetic. They know they're not saved and God knows that they're not saved. We think we fool Him. We think those piddly prayers honor Him. But He says that He hears the prayers of the righteous, that honesty is what He desires, that only those with faith please Him (James 5:16; 1 Chronicles 29:17; Acts 17:11).
So we started at the beginning: Who is God?
We all thought we knew. But when our answers are only based on what Scripture says about who God is, it starts to put things into perspective. Eyes closed, five voices getting solemner by the moment, claiming the claims of Jesus Himself. Rather than starting prayer with "thank you" we started with acknowledgement. How hard that proved to be, to break our own rote prayer style that has been acceptable to our lazy selves for so long.
That prayer session revealed much- our doubts as well as our own self righteousness. Pride boiled near the top, but sweet voices longing for eternity were mingled in as well. Prayers spanning between an eight year old boy to a forty year old tired mother revealed where our hearts really are.
Day two brought the discovery of a book on the shelf of our home library by John White called Daring to Draw Near. It is full of insights on prayers that are recorded in Scripture and how God is revealed through them. Not a how-to-pray book, but a peek-at-God-through-prayer book. What an amazing concept: to turn prayer into being about God rather than about us!
If my children can get past the torture concept, past the giggles, and God chooses to reveal Himself to them as they dare to draw near His throne I will give them all A's. And God, Lord willing, will have created a few more powerful warriors for His kingdom.