A Focus Problem
Read Matthew 6:1-15
In Matthew chapter six, Jesus is still in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, now speaking about prayer. As a stay-at-home Mom for the first 15 years of my mothering, you can well imagine that prayer has been an important part of my life. In fact, numerous times over the years my kids have heard me mumbling under my breath the phrase, Help me, Lord. And He has. Ron and I have tried to instill in the children their own personal dialogue with God. In fact, every morning in the car on the way to school, the kids and I would take turns praying aloud to start off the day
I'll never forget one morning, it was my six-year-old’s turn to pray. He started off his prayer the usual way, thanking Jesus for everyone in the family, the dog, and his backpack (it was a Toy Story backpack). It was what he said next that caught my attention. Actually, it made me a little suspicious that I, being the driver, wasn’t the only one who prayed with my eyes open.
Eric began thanking Jesus for the houses, the stop signs, the crossing guards, the red car that has only one headlight, the blue van with the dog inside licking the window... Well, you get the picture. By the time we arrived, Eric's prayer time with God had turned into a detailed description of the route from our house to the school. Somewhere between Skylark Drive and Ashgrove Avenue, Eric's prayer had changed from being personal words of thankfulness to a late-breaking news bulletin. Oh, he had good intentions. He started his prayer time off right. It's just that it didn’t stay that way for very long. Eric experienced what many of us fall prey to when we pray... a focus problem. And it's even worse when we think we’re the focus.
Jesus knew of our inclination to pray with our spotlight inward instead of upward. I think that's why He gave such specific instructions to us about our prayer time. Have a look, reading from The Message Bible:
Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense His grace. ~ Matthew 6:6
Did you hear the last part of that verse… your focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense His Grace. Isn't that what prayer is all about? Ultimately, isn't that why we pray? To know God's love. To know God's grace. To know God.
Now that's not to say that we aren’t to bring our concerns to Him. It’s just the opposite. Later in this reading, Jesus tells us exactly how to pray in what is commonly known as “The Lord's Prayer.” But in reading this prayer, did you ever notice that we aren’t even mentioned until almost half way through? The emphasis is on the Father – His name, His kingdom, His will. That says a lot about where our focus should be, doesn’t it?
So, knowing that God is indeed God and knows all things anyway, you may wonder what's the point of our bringing our concerns to Him? Author, Tim Stafford, in his book, Knowing the Face of God, puts it this way:
We do not pray to tell God what He does not know, nor to remind Him of things He has forgotten. He already cares for the things we pray about; His attention to them has never flagged from the beginning, and His understanding is unfathomable. He has simply been waiting for us to care about them with Him.
Prayer. To be completely in tune with God. It is not for Him to care about what we think is important, but for us to know what He sees as important, and to care about them with Him.
We can all know God that intimately. In fact, He's waiting to talk to you.