Matt Mitchell is an adventurous young man currently in transition from his home in Toronto, Canada to living in the...
I remember being a child at Christmas time, sitting in my room with a pad of paper and a pen (which I was likely chewing), trying to think of what I wanted to ask Santa to bring me for Christmas. When I had childlike faith in Santa's supernatural, extravagant means, I was one of those kids who wished for big things-- namely, whatever gaming system was new and popular at the time, or a puppy. As time went on, and I discovered that Santa was indeed Mom & Dad (thanks a lot ten year old best friend who ruined that one for me), the way I started asking for presents changed. I stopped looking towards Christmas as a time when I could dream wildly of toys and trinkets and started to think of it more realistically. I eventually lost my habit of extravagant asking.
Some years later, I started to come to know God as father. I learned of God's goodness, love and power and that He wants good things for me and longs to give me the desires of my heart. I learned that we're to have childlike faith and trust and to be open and honest with God. I learned that He's a gift giver. Well, I think you see where this is going, back around comes big-dreaming Matt.
"Dear Jesus, I want a car... and all of the Apple products"
When I started to believe the generosity of God, I started asking big again. I would sit in my bed (not with paper and pen any more, because I still haven't found God's mailing address), and pray and thank God for all the things I desired. My prayer life consisted of some of the following:
"Dear Jesus, I want a car, and some fancy new clothes, and a few pairs of new shoes, and all of the Apple products, and a PlayStation 3, and a whole bunch of movies, CDs, and video games. Amen."
I would ask and ask and wish and wish and wait. And wait. And wait. I'm going to be honest, my Christmas list-style prayers didn't much get answered, and in my immature faith, I became frustrated and disappointed. I didn't realise that I had created a Santa Claus Jesus. A Jesus who existed only to hear my requests for stuff and perhaps give me some of them. It's taken me longer than I wish it had to realise this and to begin to rectify it.
I now know that God's purpose for relationship with me is not to give me stuff or do things for me, but to be one with me. To love all of me with all of Himself. I've realised that this is the best gift I could ever ask for and I don't even have to ask for it to have it! On top of this, He gave me the best gift ever, the cross, and He gave it two thousand years ago; He died and rose again for the sake of redeeming me and bringing me into Himself. And you know what? The cross is the gift that keeps on giving. The life that Jesus gave for me endlessly continues to bless me.
"I'm a partner now."
I don't have to come to God with a list anymore. I'm not an asker anymore; I'm a partner now. What does that mean, exactly? It means that when I ask God for something in my life I don't just ask for my prayers to come to pass, I ask how my prayers can come to pass. Instead of being a son who just receives, now I want to be a son who contributes. I've found that I'd rather take action to see my prayers manifest than sit and wait on God to do it all Himself. Here's another thought: God already knows our prayers and needs before we ask, and He's probably already at work. I don't think He ever stops and rests to take a break from being our father, provider, healer, and so on. So when we pray and ask Him for things, why do we ask as if it's something new to Him? Why not come to Him and say, "Dad, what are we going to do about this problem?" Or "How are we going to overcome this obstacle?" Or even, "How best can we celebrate this awesome thing that's happening?"
Partners share in the work, share in the fun, and share in the reward (Paul says we're "co-heirs with Christ", as an example of that). On top of asking God how we can partner with Him for what's on our heart, it's also a lot of fun to ask Him how we can partner with Him for what's on His. It often surprises me how much of a blessing it is to me when I work with God for what He desires. Often, by doing so, I see my own desires fulfilled as well!
If you can resonate with praying to God like He's Santa Claus, and you want to pray to Him like a partner, let me encourage you; partnering with God for your needs and desires is way more fun and fulfilling than just asking for them, Santa Claus-style. This little change in the way we relate to Papa is actually pretty big, and pretty easy, with immediate results (you can just feel the difference when you change the way you pray).
Besides, can you imagine Jesus wearing that fluffy red suit?
How does your perspective on who God is change the way you pray?
This archived article was written by Matt Mitchell for release in Oct, 2012. Circumstances and situations may have changed regarding the author, locations and ministries. This content may therefore be outdated or misinformed.
Sign up to receive a periodical digest of some of the best content from this magazine.