This post brings us to Chapter 3 (Prayer Used to Be Dull, but Not Now) of Dr. Crabb's book. This chapter is basically a personal story of Dr. Crabb's prayer journey. He starts with talking about the prayer meetings his church had while he was growing up and describes them as "the dullest part of my church experience" (p 15). He thought prayer meetings to be boring and senseless and couldn't see the point. He couldn't understand, as a child, why his dad found so much enjoyment in these meetings. He writes of an experience I'm sure we can all relate to, whether we've gone to prayer meetings or not: everyone closes their eyes and talks to someone named God, who they can't even see, thanking Him for Jesus and asking Him for a variety of things they want. The receipt of these things appears to be irrelevant to the fact they were prayed for. When a prayer is answered, everyone behaves as though they knew that would happen. But an unanswered prayer? Let's just ignore that.
This confusion about prayer (will it be answered? will it not? not knowing how to cope with unanswered prayer so it's just ignored and we focus only on the obviously answered ones), leads to "just-in-case" prayers - ask God for things just in case it helps you get them. But at some point in your journey this needs to change (or your journey is complete ... and a failure... you've gone as far as you can/want and are going no further). You need to come to a realization that there is more to prayer than "just-in-case" and that prayer requires faith. At some point you begin to understand why people pray, why people find joy in prayer! And then your prayer life begins to develop further. I think my parents understood/understand this. I think of my Mom and I can see that she found pure joy in prayer, in speaking to her Father in heaven, holding a quiet confidence that, whether the prayer resulted in the answer she wanted or not, it WAS answered and God's will is done, a quiet confidence that she is safe in the arms of her heavenly Father.
Dr. Crabb continues to describe how his prayer life (and prayer in church) evolved. The church began to call the aspect of prayer that tells God how wonderful He is "worship" so, instead of including that in prayer, it is instead expressed in song. This concept takes away from prayer and from worship! As Dr. Crabb says, "the notion that worship at its core is sacrifice never took hold" (p. 17). I can see this same development in my own life, especially during my college years. The kind of prayer that praised God for who He is, that told Him how wonderful He is came in the form of song and the actual act of praying became an act of requesting. As Dr. Crabb describes it, "my just-in-case prayers were pretty routine, a passionless recitation of a daily liturgy of request. Unless, of course, something big was at stake ... then I became zealous" (p. 17). We were told that song was just another form of prayer. This isn't entirely false but isn't entirely true either. It takes away from the beauty and power of what prayer could be and it makes (or has the potential to make) the act of singing praise just that - an act.
The just-in-case prayers develop, with a greater understanding of who God is, into something more humble, less demanding. But still there is the problem of two aspects of prayer being separate. How can we bring them back togethers - not in a forced act but in sincerity? This is one of the points of this book. Dr. Crabb says that "it's only been in recent years - and [he's] now entering [his] seventh decade - that prayer has become the richest part of [his] spiritual life" (p. 18). And how did this happen? How did prayer become so beautiful and important to him, something he likes to do? And how can it become the same for us? Through the PAPA prayer! And as we continue to delve into the book we can and will learn more about how it can transform our prayer lives!
You can view the other posts in this series by following this link.