Thursday, February 15, 2007

First Prayers

Ahava said her first prayer last night. At least, it's the first prayer she's said that we know of. We were doing her Building Our Legacy devotional with her (we're a day behind in her book), and were trying to explain to her what prayer is and how to do it. So her first prayer was "God bless Daddy. Amen." How sweet is that? Doug and I looked at each other, hearts on our sleeves, and said wow, her first prayer! Moments like that just make your heart burst with love, what Max Lucado calls a "love burst."

I imagine that's what our Heavenly Father feels like when He hears our prayers. To His ears they sound like the humble, broken sentences of a two-year-old. And the fact that we're even attempting to talk to Him probably makes His heart burst with love.

To some it may sound strange to attribute such a human emotional response to God, but I think we've missed it somehow when we attach our own preconceived notions to God and strip Him of His emotions. The Bible talks in great detail of God's emotions. The ones that stick out in most folks' minds the most are the ones where He's really ticked off and His anger flares up. There are plenty of instances of just that happening, yes. But there are also plenty of instances where we actually read that His heart melts with love. The interesting thing about Him is that, when it comes to His children, He can't stay angry for long. Just like us as parents. We may get angry with a child for deliberately disobeying or for being rebellious, but the anger is like a flash in the pan compared to our enduring love for them. That's how our Heavenly Father is.

Isaiah 54 is a perfect example of His heart wavering in its' anger, overcome by His love and compassion for His children, even when they do wrong. Take a look at verses 7 and 8: "'For a brief moment I forsook you, But with great compassion I will gather you. In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment; But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on You,' Says the Lord your Redeemer."

It's later in this chapter that He gives us a beautiful promise, a proclamation of His protection: "'No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper; And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their vindication is from Me,' declares the Lord." Now that's powerful. That's a heritage that each and every believer, as a servant of the Lord, can and should embrace to the fullest.

And look at the entire book of Hosea. The House of Israel (the southern kingdom, consisting of ten of the twelve tribes, the ones we commonly hear called the "Lost Tribes" today) rebelled against Solomon's son and against God's commandments. They turned their backs on God's appointed times and His Sabbath, and started worshipping the pagan sun god. God was so angry with the House of Israel that He told them He would no longer have compassion on them, and declared that they were no longer a people. In Hosea 1:9 he declares, "...for you are not My people and I am not your God." Total rejection from the Creator of the universe. That's gotta sting. We're still feeling the effects of that one today.

But He couldn't stay angry for long. In the very next verse, His love for them overwhelms and pours out, and He declares, "Yet the number of the sons of Israel Will be like the sand of the sea, Which cannot be measured or numbered; And it will come about that, in the place Where it is said to them, 'You are not My people,' It will be said to them, 'You are the sons of the living God.' And the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together, And they will appoint for themselves one leader, And they will go up from the land, For great will be the day of Jezreel."

These are just a few examples of God's love being stronger than His anger. The epitome, the ultimate illustration of God's love for His children, is Christ's sacrifice on the cross. Can you imagine what it must have been like for the Creator of the universe to clothe Himself in flesh and walk among sinners? John 1:4-5,10-12 says this of Christ's earthly presence among man: "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it...He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name."

Can you imagine what it must have been like to willingly die in the hands of your own creation? John 3:16 starts with the words "For God so loved the world..." Wow. Stop for just a moment and think about that. God loved you and me so much that He willingly died for us so that we could be with Him. There is no greater love than that. Jesus said in John 15:13-14, "Greater love hath no man than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you."

Knowing the great love that the Father bestows upon us, how can we not pray? How can we not attempt to communicate with Him? Our prayers may be humble, like that of my two-year-old daughter, or may be great oratory works. But they're still viewed the same by our Father, as the attempts of His children to communicate with Him. I imagine that in those moments where we offer our first prayers to Him, where we try to reach Him, unsure of ourselves, of whether He's even listening, but desperate to be heard, that His heart melts. And in those moments we are held in the hands of a loving Father, listening to His children's first prayers with delight.

That reminds me of Jeremiah 31:20, where Father muses over Ephraim (another name for the House of Israel): "'Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a delightful child? Indeed, as often as I have spoken against him, I certainly still remember him; Therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him,' declares the Lord."

His heart yearns for us, even when we're rebellious and wallowing in our sin. Even then, Father's love reaches out to us, and He delights in us, in our feeble attempts to communicate with Him.

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