“I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in his grace until his task within you is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns.” (Phil 1:6 TLB)
I couldn’t believe it. Standing right there, in front of my table, was the girl of my dreams, the one who would eventually become my wife.
It was registration time at the college where I had just been fortunate enough to land a teaching position. I had been busy all afternoon, signing students up for beginning, intermediate and advanced French classes. I never would have imagined, when I lifted my eyes from the papers in front of me to wait on the next student, that my life would change forever. But it did, for there, in front of MY table, stood a young woman with a radiant smile. The moment I saw her, even though I had never even said a word to her, I knew in my heart that she would become my wife. I now realize that God’s Spirit was preparing the way for our upcoming relationship.
Don’t get me wrong, I was VERY shy of girls, especially pretty ones! Why? My self-worth was far from being ideal. In fact, it could have competed with the lowest tides of the ocean. I felt like I didn’t deserve the privilege of even being seen with a pretty girl. I believed that they would laugh at my words, my mannerisms, my thick glasses . . . Believe me, my self-image was REALLY low!
It all started out in grade school. We lived in a Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, and even though we only spoke French at home, I had no choice but to attend a Dutch-speaking school. I also wore very thick glasses, and in those days when ultra-thin lenses didn’t exist, it didn’t take long before I was labeled “The Coke-bottled Francophone”, an insult that would haunt me throughout my school life.
Only once did a teacher take pity on me. Although that high school professor was renowned for his anti-French attitude, to the astonishment of the entire student population, he befriended me. But instead of it being a blessing, it became a curse. I now had an additional label: “Teacher’s pet”! Another strike to my self-image!
Because I was used of people laughing at me, I expected the same when I attended college. This is one of the reasons that whenever I ate at the cafeteria and a nice-looking girl would sit at my table, I would gobble up the remainders of my food and leave! Not only did I feel like I didn’t deserve their attention, but part of me feared that their attention would be of the negative kind! I had already taken all of the insults I could stand, why put myself in the position to take more?
But here I was, at the registration table, filled with the inner conviction that this young woman would become my wife.
I found myself faced with two choices: I could either tell myself that I was dreaming, ignore the promptings, and treat her like all of the other students, thus avoiding any personal contact with her; or I could treat her the way God wanted me to treat her and let God guide our eventual relationship.
So often people approach their prayer life in the same manner: they feel they don’t deserve to even be in contact with God! They are not worthy of God’s love!
Now, I have to admit that I heartily agree with them: None of us deserve God’s love! “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Rom 3:10-18 NIV); and “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Rom 3:23 NIV)
We chose to disregard God, we chose to go our own merry-albeit destructive-way. We are the ones who first think of ourselves, thus neglecting not only our fellow human beings, but God as well! We are the ones who deliberately sinned against God. We really do not deserve His love!
God sees it differently, however! “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23 NIV); and “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 NIV)
If God loves us this much, we can be assured that He will NEVER mock us when we come to Him in prayer. In fact, He encourages us to come! “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ ‘But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14 NIV)
Remember the moment I met my wife-to-be? Had I ignored God’s prompting, had I NOT pursued this relationship because I didn’t feel worthy, I would have missed out on two of God’s great gifts for my life: A God-given wife and two wonderful boys! Or worse, I might have married someone outside of God’s will, and I would have been miserable the rest of my life! In the same way, if you avoid prayer because you don’t think you deserve God’s love, you will miss out on God’s greatest gift for your life: Being able to personally experience Him! You will continue to linger in your self-pity, no hope in sight!
If you avoid prayer for such reasons, you will only find yourself feeling more and more miserable. God loves you and wants to interact with you. He wants to be your friend. In fact, He wants you to be much more than His friend! He wants you to be His heir, for eternity! “So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” (Gal 4:7 NIV)
You have two choices, friends: Either you ignore the inner prompting to accept God’s love and His promised kingdom, or you accept God into your life and communicate with Him freely. Only if you chose the later will you experience the fullness of His grace and love. Only then will you be set free from any burdens and addictions that hinder you from being fully yourself.
Remember: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36 NIV)
(To access the entire “Hindrances to Prayer” devotional series, please click here.)