Patterns in prayer

So colouring in seems is back in, cleverly marketed for grown-ups! I’m not sure that I’m convinced, but the following illustration it provides has proved helpful to me.

As I have been looking at the reformers and what they have to say on prayer I have been collecting rules. Calvin even calls his pointers ‘RULES’ – and they are great.

As you may know – I like rules! They are like the lines you need to keep in when you are colouring. If the lines are well drawn they help you create something beautiful. Calvin’s lines are well drawn:

  • Rule 1: Fear the Lord. Fear of grieving him, messing such a meeting up, not a fear of him being angry with us, but a fear that comes from joy and delight.

  • Rule 2: Recognise our brokenness, come as the mess we are, no ‘Sunday Best’. Sin is a chaos within.

  • Rule 3: Submissive trust. Leave all hopes and desires in his hands.

But his last rule is best of all! Rule 4 is that, in one sense, there are no rules. The last rule is grace.

We can have confidence and hope as we pray – not dependent on ‘the neatness of our colouring’.  God tells us to ask for things, he loves us, and he loves to give us things in answer to prayer. In fact prayer is ‘the safest way to receive something’ from God. ‘It protects us from self sufficiency and we have the freedom to ask all and then know that he is wise and will only give us what is good.

My love of the rules can paralyse me. I dare not make a mark on the page unless I have the rules memorised and totally understood. (You can see where the All or Nothing gets it from!) But swing too far the other way and we merely scribble over something day after day and miss out on some of the beauty of the picture God is making with us. It is right to stretch and straighten our muddled, sinful our thinking and to challenge it with more and more truth. It is right to speak deeply into our hearts to open them up to the light of God’s word so that we can pray from the depths of our hearts more and more in tune with God’s heart. It is right to labour to this end in recognition that it is the Lord who works in us.

BUT… the mistakes don’t matter. They don’t count against us. Jesus has done the perfect colouring and intercedes at the Lord’s right hand. His Holy Spirit prays within us so the perfect prayer alway travels to the Father.

It is OK to make mistakes, AND it is wonderful to experience more of what God longs for us in prayer. We can go on scribbling in brown, the picture is worth no less to our Father, and at times it is all we can muster – but why not see what other colours God has put in your pencil case, and what amazing pictures you can produce with him?

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