We sit down at the dinner table and we reach for each other’s’ hands. The food is on the table, covered with lids, tinfoil or towels to keep it warm.
“Who would like to pray?” I ask.
Both girls very excitedly say, “I do!” We discuss for a moment who got to pray first the last time so we can be sure we are taking turns and treating each other fairly. This has become our dinner ritual, each girl jumping at that chance to pray before we eat. Their brother happily allows them the opportunity.
Our youngest closes out our prayer time. As is her usual, she prays,
“Thank you, Jesus, because you like us, and you love us, and you never forget us.”
And there it is, the simplest but purest little prayer. Spoken from a heart that knows nothing other than a faithful Savior who adores her.
This scene plays out five nights a week when we have dinner at the table as a family. Five nights a week, almost without fail, that little five-year-old prays that prayer. I am sure one day it will change, but in this season, I am savoring it.
The Highest and Holiest Work
In his book Teach me to Pray, Andrew Murray says, “Though in its beginnings prayer is so simple that even a small child can pray, it is at the same time the highest and holiest work to which anyone can rise.”
I would love to proclaim to you that we have always engaged as a family in this highest and holiest of works, but that would not be true. We have ebbed and flowed with seasons of life. We have had times where we’ve been faithful to pray together daily and we have had times that if you were in the walls of our home, apart from the scriptures found on chalkboards and letter boards, you might wonder if we had any faith at all.
Even still, this past year I’ve been convicted more than ever of the need for prayer.
As this conviction has stayed and tugged at my heart persistently, I keep hearing the verse “This kind can come out only by prayer,” (Mark 9:29) in my heart.
After the disciples’ unsuccessful attempts to drive an evil spirit out of a young boy, Jesus comes to take care of the matter. He rebukes the spirit and immediately it throws the boy into convulsions and soon he appears dead. But Jesus grabs him by the hand and he walks away with his father. In private, the disciples ask Jesus why they couldn’t drive out the evil spirit. Jesus responds with “This kind can come out only by prayer.”
Flip to the same story in Matthew 17:14-20. In this version, when the disciples ask Jesus why they couldn’t drive it out, he replies in verse 20, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
The same story. Two different responses were recorded. Both critical for the life of a believer. But why?
Prayer is the language we have been given to communicate with God. It’s our conduit to hear Him, to commune with Him, to petition Him. It’s the love language of Heaven if you will.
In Mark, Jesus makes it clear that the disciples could not fulfill the work of the Father without prayer. In the retelling of the same story in Matthew, Jesus makes it clear that they could not fulfill the work of the Father because they needed faith.
So, which is it? Prayer or faith?
I think it’s both.
Prayers without faith are hollow petitions. Faith without prayer is powerless.
“Jesus did not teach his disciples how to preach but how to pray. To know how to speak to God is more vital than knowing how to speak to men. It is power with God not man that is of supreme importance,” said Andrew Murray (in Teach me to Pray).
I believe God is calling us to prayer. I believe He is looking for His children to come to Him with faith that moves mountains for our communities, our friends, our nation, our world. I believe He wants to heal the sick, mend relationships, rescue victims, and feed the thousands. But without prayers filled with mountain-moving faith, I think these miracles wait in suspense.
What if we prayed like that? Knowing He never forgets us [thank you little one] and that He wants to do the miraculous?
Note that when the disciples tried and failed to perform this miracle they had done it before—successfully. They also had just come off witnessing two—not just one—miracles of feeding thousands of people with a few measly loaves of bread and pieces of fish. They had just seen Him walk on water and heal a deaf man. They were fresh off a miracle making spree with the Messiah! And yet, they were rebuked because of faithless prayer.
Let us be the generation that sees the miracles and believes God for even more!
Father, I pray we are the believing generation that falls to our knees in faith that moves mountains! Help our unbelief, Lord Jesus! And may it be said, that we never grew weary in seeking you with the childlike faith that believes for the miraculous because, well, you are the Miracle Worker.