Prayer and a Father's Love
Last week, as I tucked Valentine into bed one night, she began to sob. “I miss Papa!” she wailed.
“He’s still at church,” I said, “Cleaning up after youth group. You’ll see him in the morning.”
She was inconsolable. She wanted…needed…him to be there.
Finally, hoping to comfort (and distract) her, I asked, “What do you like about Papa?”
“I like that he lets me play Overwatch!”
Rolling my eyes just a little, I asked, “What else do you like about him?”
Still wailing, she cried, “That’s the only thing!”
It was such a ridiculous thing for her to say. At the moment, it occurred to me that this fit probably had much more to do with delaying the flip of the light switch than it did with her father, but still, it bothered me.
Laying down beside her, I stared into her red-rimmed eyes. “What about when he tickles you? Don’t you like that?”
She got quiet.
“What about when he reads The Chronicles of Narnia to you? Don’t you like that?”
Despite her tears, she started to giggle.
“What about the way his eyes look when he laughs? Don’t you like that?”
“What about how he spins you in the air and throws you onto the bed?”
“Oh! That’s so fun!” she said.
I kissed her, prayed for her and turned out the lights. Just a few minutes later while I was cleaning the kitchen downstairs, Logan walked in the door and almost immediately went upstairs to see if Valentine was still awake. Later, he told me that when he walked into her room, she said, “Papa! I like everything about you!”
At youth group last week, we talked to the students about prayer, about the conversation we have with God. It occurred to me that Valentine’s experience was similar to what can happen when we pray. At the beginning, she knew she wanted her father, but only because of what she could get out of him—a video game that they sometimes play together. But through gentle coaxing and some time for her to sit quietly and think about her dad, she started to remember all the things she loved about him. In fact, her affection grew so large as to encompass everything she knew about him.
And isn’t this what we are to aim at in prayer? We often come to God in prayer with something we desperately need…want…him to provide for us. But when we spend time meditating on who he is and all that he has done for us, our attitude shifts. John Owen says,
The spiritual intense fixation of the mind, by contemplation on God in Christ, until the soul be as it were swallowed up in admiration and delight, and being brought unto an utter loss, through the infiniteness of those excellencies which it doth admire and adore…are things to be aimed at in prayer, and which, through the riches of divine condescension, are frequently enjoyed.
In the past year, I’ve tried to stop thinking of reading the Bible and praying in the morning as good things for me to do, but instead to think of them as tools to center myself in the good things that God has done for me. I sit down on my couch with the intention of being “swallowed up in admiration and delight.” Honestly, it doesn’t always happen. There are times when I’m too tired, distracted or bitter to enjoy God in this way. But because of God’s kindness to me, many times something does happen. And I stand up afterward thinking, “Dear Father, I love everything about you!”