Prayer, helplessness, and the gospel

Paul Miller, in his book, A Praying Life, writes this:

The gospel, God’s free gift of grace in Jesus, only works when we realize we don’t have it all together. The same is true for prayer. The very thing we are allergic to – our helplessness – is what makes prayer work. It works because we are helpless. We can’t do life on our own.

Prayer mirrors the gospel. In the gospel, the Father takes us as we are because of Jesus and gives us his gift of salvation. In prayer, the Father receives us as we are because of Jesus and gives us his gift of help. We look at the inadequacy of our praying and give up, thinking something is wrong with us. God looks at the adequacy of his Son and delights in our sloppy, meandering prayers.

How does this apply to parenting? Parenting and prayer mirror the gospel. Parenting in the gospel means that apart from Christ I am unable to have it altogether as a parent. I am not the perfect parent on my own. When one of my children does or says something that isn’t God-honoring, my first response is to get on them and nag them. “Don’t do that! Don’t say that!” That kind of response doesn’t seem to work.

I should (why don’t I?) pray first. “God, I am inadequate to change this child on my own, but you can. I pray that you will work in his or her heart in this area to bring about change for their good and your glory.” Then I should (why don’t I?) address them with the gospel. “I am praying for you because I love you and I want to see God help you in this area. You can pray too and ask God to give you the strength and ability to do what you can’t on your own, because just like me, you are unable to change apart from the gospel.”

God, help me to live out the gospel in my life and in my home.


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