When I was little, I listened with wonder and a little confusion over stories of grown-ups who prayed so often they wore down their wood floors next to their beds and built callouses on their knees. I admired all-night prayer meetings, but I didn’t understand how people could pray so long.
I felt wonder because I recognized that fervent prayer was a wonderful thing.
I felt confusion because I didn’t know what they prayed about. When I prayed for everything I knew, I might be done in a few minutes. I could stretch it out by repeating everything a few times, but then I’d worry that this practice was a vain repetition.
Looking back, I recognize that some of my confusion was that I had fewer words as a direct result of my age, not necessarily a lack of understanding. There is a sense that a Christian child’s spiritual maturing follows the limitations of his physical and mental development. Basically, I didn’t need to worry that God’s approval of my prayers was based on an imaginary standard of adult maturity. He delights in the prayers of His children, no matter how long or sophisticated they may be!
For example, this morning I watched my son practice texting with his dad. He’s learning to read, and was delighted to be communicating with his dad this way, but he didn’t know what to say. So he kept typing words he knew, like “race car,” and then giggling with pleasure that he had communicated with his dad. Of course, Lee was tickled by David’s joy, and he took great delight in thinking up simple questions that David could read and respond to. It was fun to watch them both.
As a child, I loved verses that told me what God delights in. This one always made me smile when I read it:
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight. Proverbs 15:8.
My brother Tom introduced me to this passage a few years ago:
Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 9:23-24
We think the only way to boast in our wisdom is to be proud that we’re wise and spiritual, but a preoccupation of our lack of wisdom or spiritual maturity can distract us from glorying in God and His character. May we simply delight in a God who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness and forget about ourselves.