Here’s a scenario to which many of you will be able to relate. One evening, my son-in-law was putting my youngest granddaughter to bed. As per normal, she didn’t want him to leave when the time came for her to get to sleep. She made a final plea by saying, “Daddy, can you lay with me for a couple whiles?”
If you’ve ever been a parent, you know that those are the kind of moments that stick with you for a long time—maybe for a lifetime. Kids say cute things when they don’t quite have the language down pat. Seeing that quote on Facebook tugged at my heartstrings. As a Dad and a Granddad, those sorts of events seem to make it all worthwhile.
That tiny question not only evoked memories for me, it caused me to think about the various relationships that fathers (and parents in general) have with their children. Those relationships are extremely complicated (as well as unpredictable). But they tend to boil down to the simplest moments in time.
It also made me think about our relationship with the Heavenly Father. We glide along in this life assuming we’re growing, maturing, and often in control. Then, in our best moments, we realize we need our Lord, and we reach out to Him. As an earthly father, it causes me to wonder what our prayers sound like to the Creator.
Sometimes we say these grandiose, pompous, well-established prayers. We get out our prayer books and use someone else’s words to say what we want to say to the Almighty. I often refer to this as priming the pump. When my words don’t seem to cut it, I use the words of some long-gone saint to help me find thoughts of my own. That was especially true when I had to say a pastoral prayer week in and week out. Sometimes the well went dry. Prayer books came in handy when that happened.
The best prayers, of course, are the ones that come from the heart of the human—when our soul cries out to the God who made us. It’s almost like the parable Jesus told of the Pharisee’s prayer as compared with that of a tax collector. The lowly and humbled collector bowed in repentance and asked for leniency. He knew the Lord of Life was the only real source of understanding. His prayer was simple. “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” (Luke 18:13)
The Pharisee’s prayer was much more confident and pompous. He was the professional pray-er, if you will. Occasionally, people would comment favorably on my pastoral prayer during morning worship. I used to tell them that I was paid to be good and that they had to be good for nothing (I loved using that line).
No matter how good my prayers came out, however, I sometimes wonder if, to the ears of God, they all sounded like, “Daddy, can you lay with me for a couple of whiles?” I’m guessing that’s good enough.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]