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Prayer: Learning Childlike Dependence

“Daddy, watch me!” The little girl with newly removed training wheels grinned from cheek to cheek, her pigtails flopping.

“Honey, no, don’t go yet! You will need my help to begin,” Dad answered.

“No, I can do it on my own, Daddy. Remember? I’m five now!”

“You are going to…” Dad could not finish his sentence before running to his daughter, who was crying on the cement.

“I told you, Honey. I will hold onto the seat. Then you won’t fall.”

“Okay, Daddy. Don’t ever let go,” the girl pleaded.

From the earliest of ages, we were taught to pray. We were taught a little prayer to say before and after meals. Our little hands were clasped tightly beside our beds, and we prayed that God would keep us safe while we slept and would wake us in the morning. “Our Father which art in heaven…” flowed off the tongue in unison with the family. In school, we formulated our own prayers to say when our turn for devotions arrived. Prayer has been a nurturing milk, flowing through our family life, school life, and church life.

But is prayer also established in our personal lives? A life of prayer is crucial, especially as young people. We grow up, sit in the driver’s seat of our cars, and think we have all the time and control in the world. We don’t need the help of our parents or teachers anymore. We don’t need guidance or direction. We’re smart enough. We forget our weakness and dependency. Driving up to the large building called school, we strut in thinking we can take on the world. Within a short time, we totter on our bike seats, lose our balance, and realize our foolishness. Our heads hang heavy, overwhelmed with the relentless pressures of school-work, jobs, decisions for our future, friendships, and, overriding all these things, the constant battle against sin.

Why is this? We have turned our eyes from a very important relationship: the beautiful covenant relationship between God and us, his people, the relationship that makes him our Father and us his beloved children. Yes, beloved. We are without a doubt dearly loved by God our Father, and we cry “abba” to him (Rom. 8:15). He is both our Father and our Friend. To have communion with a friend, we must speak. Therefore, we must speak to God. He speaks to us clearly in his word, and we respond to him in prayer. Prayer is “the chief part of thankfulness” (H.C. L.D. 45, Q & A 116).

We pray not only when life is overwhelming and difficult. God is not just our lifeline. But we pray reverently in the most mundane of things and in the most joyous of times. He bows down his ear unto us (Ps. 86:1) as we confess that he is our Father, that all glory belongs to him, when we ask that his kingdom come, that his will be performed in us, that he provide for our needs, and that our sins be forgiven.

Let us go forth as young people, strong in prayer, understanding our need for dependence, just as the psalmist David says: “Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy” (Ps. 61:1–3).

Originally published January 2020, Vol. 79 No. 1