Note from Barbara: Recently I wrote about the amazing access to God’s presence that we can enjoy because of Jesus’ death and Resurrection. If you missed it, you can find it here. As I’ve continued thinking about this, I’ve discovered I might know a little of what constant access might feel like for God.
As a mom, my children had unhindered access to me every day and they happily took advantage of it. Like most children, they asked millions of questions, told me all their troubles, ran to me crying, woke me up in the middle of the night when they had nightmares or they were scared of the thunder, and boldly brought me their accusations against their siblings.
While it was my choice to always be available, I got really tired of their constant needs. I likened myself to a vending machine. They poked and prodded me and pulled on my clothing like we do vending machines as we put in money and bang on the box if it doesn’t produce quickly enough.
Too often I come to God the same way … as if He’s a vending machine. I rush in and out of prayer. I sometimes hurriedly and, if I’m honest, presumptuously rattle off my needs as I’m flying out the door for the day.
Is your prayer style rushed?
Do you hurry to God with urgent “I need this now” prayers like my kids did with me?
Do you often forget the majesty and authority and perfection of who you are talking to?
I’m guessing the honest answer is yes.
Of course, He is God and He never gets tired of our requests. But that doesn’t mean I should take for granted the privilege of constant access to His holy presence.
And yes, it is good to pray as I’m driving or washing dishes, and yes, there are days when my heart is heavy or preoccupied and I’m not “all there.” Still God sees me in grace and love. He has compassion on me because He knows my weaknesses and frailties just as I knew those of my children. He is my Father who loves me and delights that I come to Him.
But He desires a growing relationship with me. He wants me to grow out of my toddler prayer habits. For toddlers and kids life is all about them. God wants me to mature beyond that stage and learn to talk to Him, my Father, and get to know Him too. His goal is for me to be more like Jesus in the ways He prayed when He was on earth.
In our modern era I think we might ask, “Have we become too comfortable in our view of God, too relaxed in our constant access? Have we remade Him into our buddy … or our “Mr. Fix-it”? Have we forgotten that He is holy?
This week I’ve chosen another prayer by Susanna Wesley, who lived in 17th century and raised ten children. Two of those children became well-known: John Wesley grew up to found the Methodist church and his brother Charles composed over 6000 hymns for the church, including favorites like “And Can It Be?” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”
Susanna writes about our tendency to forget who we address in our constant access to our Father in Heaven. And she addresses our ever-present urgency in life which makes us rush in and out of prayer like my toddlers, preschoolers and even older kids who rushed into my presence asking what was for dinner or when they could watch TV or their screens, then dashed back to their rooms or toys.
To help us right our view of God, here is the prayer I love by Susanna:
Enable me, O God,
to collect and compose my thoughts
before an immediate approach to Thee in prayer.
May I be careful to have my mind in order
when I take upon myself the honor to speak
to the sovereign Lord of the universe …
Thou art infinitely too great to be trifled with;
Too wise to be imposed on by a mock devotion …
Help me to entertain an habitual sense of Thy perfections,
as an admirable help against cold and formal performances.
Save me from engaging in rash and precipitate prayers
and from abrupt breaking away
to follow business or pleasure
as though I had never prayed.
Though Susanna lived hundreds of years ago, her words could have been written today. Such is the commonality we humans all share across the ages.
She reminds me if I were to see God as He is, my self-centeredness would fall away. My petty preoccupations would feel as insignificant as they truly are. And I would fall on my face before Him. I would ask less and surrender more. I would happily say as Jesus did, “Thy will be done” (Matthew 6:10) no matter what the cost might be.
Susanna asked for a right view of our Father in Heaven so she might be saved from what we are all so easily prone to do—bluster in before Him impetuously and arrogantly, thinking only of ourselves and what we want or think we need. She’s asking Him to help her remember to focus first on His worthiness, and to worship Him before we present our list to Him.
Will you consider Susanna’s prayer for yourself?
May a heart alignment save us from ourselves as we come before the King of kings in prayer.
And I hope you will print this beautifully designed prayer to hang somewhere in your home or to keep in your Bible as a reminder on how to approach our holy and awesome God.
This is the third of six blog posts on prayer between now and June. I have loved reading old prayers since the days of my mothering when I discovered the prayers of saints like Susanna Wesley. Each blog post features an old prayer from someone now in the great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1). We have much to learn from these saints of old; though some words are not in vogue today they help us see God in ways we don’t in our modern world. I hope you enjoy this series!
If you missed the other posts on prayer, here they are:
“How to Enjoy Constant Access to God in Prayer”
“Praying for Those Who May Be Difficult to Love”
To help you talk to God, we encourage you to print the beautifully designed prayer in this blog post. Click here to download.
*Taken from The Prayers of Susanna Wesley by W.L. Doughty, 1984, Zondervan Publishing. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com., p. 25.