Our local paper publishes letters to Santa written by children in the community. Here is one of the more hilarious examples:
Mii krismislist I wont usiinsset end a ulabkot u snacset. I wont to sekrokuoil huntr u skoodr bag.
(No, your font isn’t scrambled. I typed it exactly as written). The letters cover the spectrum of grammar, spelling, and gifts requested. Every year, my family affectionately reads these aloud, amused by unvarnished humanity.
As we read today, I thought about all the kids writing to Santa year after year until they stop believing. Most never get a response. Our Post Office sends a form letter “from Santa” to kids whose Santa-letters end up in the mailbox. It’s a cute and thoughtful gesture but without reality (obviously).
It struck me that for many Christians, prayer is like writing letters to Santa. God is a mythical figure we’re trying to communicate with “up there” (not the North Pole but heaven). We stammer into the air, ask questions, and ask Him to give us things but get no response. Eventually, some of us stop believing.
Well-meaning ministers and church members attempt responses on behalf of God, and God certainly speaks through people at times. Other times, however, such responses are just like letters from the Post Office–good wishes but not really from “The Big Man Upstairs.”
I can remember feeling this way about prayer. It’s not something you really want to admit. If this is you, I want to encourage you to admit it–at least to yourself and God. Why? Because one of my favorite prayers in the Bible is, “I believe. Help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). If we want to grow or get help we need to be honest about where we are and what we need.
The Bible portrays prayer as a conversation–not a monologue but a dialogue. Sure, God answers in many ways–through dreams, scripture, other people, circumstances, etc. But He also just speaks, Person to person. Questions are asked and answered. Directions are given. Wisdom is shared. Comfort is spoken. It isn’t spooky, magic, or mysticism.
Do you desire a prayer life that is truly personal? Do you want to go beyond letters-to-Santa style praying? If so, I want to encourage you. Keep believing. Keep praying. Keep listening. God wants you to experience prayer as portrayed in the Bible. He has made you one with His Son. Whatever closeness exists between Jesus and the Father is also for you. Think of Jesus’s most intimate prayers in scripture. You are meant to grow into that same relationship: not stammering into the air but talking to your Father; a Father that loves you and talks back.
2 Comments Add yours
I like the tone of this, Teague. It seems to me that prayer is sadly so often treated as a problem to be solved, a mysterious conundrum to be untangled… so much so that actually maturing in the practice of prayer can easily get lost. Yes, comprehending how prayer really works is mysterious, making sense of unanswered prayer is challenging, but we will miss out on the gift and beauty of prayer if we focus too much attention on the mystery and mechanics of it all.
I still can’t explain how riding a bike really works. Or air travel. But I enjoy them both! And comprehending the ways of God is far beyond either of those things.
Thanks for this encouraging word. Merry Christmas!
Matt, great thoughts and on point! Thanks for sharing!