I know it’s wrong. I know all the parenting books and all my past experience and just the feelings in my gut tell me it’s wrong.
But I still do it.
This is my confession: When my five year old asks for a cookie, I tell him no. When my two year old asks for a cookie, they both get one.
I don’t even realize it until it’s done, but there you have it. I’m working on it, alright?? Yeesh.
If you have siblings, then you can probably relate to this experience. You knew, collectively, growing up which one of you could be sent to mom and dad for each request depending on the answer you wanted. My brother knew that if he sent me in to ask my dad for something, it increased our chances of getting a positive response by at least 35%, and I knew that if I sent my brother to ask my mom that the results would be similar. My husband knew that if he and his middle sister sent their baby sister to ask, it would pretty much be candy and rainbows for all of them.
I have erroneously applied this notion of bartering and begging, trying to find favorite children and working my best doughey eyes and pouty lips to my prayer life.
I have thought that I need to approach God in a very specific manner, at a very specific time, that I need to have a very specific heart position and very specific words so that I can bring my request to Him and beg Him to make it so. I have thought that if I catch Him on a good day or in a good mood, my chances of receiving a positive response will increase. I have thought that if I can get certain big-wig Christians in my community to pray for me, then maybe God will listen a little extra. I have thought that my prayers bug God, that they are a nuisance to Him and that if I can just annoy Him enough, maybe things will change.
Then I studied Nehemiah. Then I learned about ektenos and what abiding really means.
In Nehemiah, we find the work of wall-building beginning while Nehemiah is still in Persia, far from the crumbling walls of Jerusalem. The work starts in a dialogue between Nehemiah and God. It starts with confession, with humility, with heartbreak ad earnest prayer. Before Nehemiah even makes his heart known to another living soul, he pours his heart out in earnest to God. And in so doing, he finds the place where his heart and God’s heart intersect. That is where the work begins.
In Acts 12, we find the apostle Peter in prison set to be executed by Herod Agrippa.
“Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.” Acts 12:5
The word “constant” there is the Greek word ektenos. It is a medical term which describes the stretching of muscle to its limits. Luke uses the same word to describe Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane in Luke 22:44. Isn’t it appropriate for a physician to use a striking physical description to capture what is an un-seeable spiritual exercise? Can’t you picture it? If you’ve ever watched a Strongman competition, Spartan race, or even the Olympics, you know what someone looks like when they have stretched their muscles to the limit. They are tired. They are spent. I had the pleasure of watching my little sister bring my niece into the world this past week. Childbirth is ektenos and almost a perfect picture of prayer as ektenos.
See friends, the spiritual reality is this: When we pray we are doing work. And not the work of getting all gussied up for God or batting our eyelashes just the right way to try and flatter Him into doing what we want. No guys, Jesus already did all the gussying up for us. Jesus already did the prep work, He is the favorite child. He’s gone into the throne room before us and made a way for us to come alongside the Father and do the work together with Him. Because prayer doesn’t support the work, prayer is the work. And we are in that abiding relationship with the Lord, when we are living in that sweet spot where our hearts are intersecting and we are living ektenos prayer, that is when mountains move, walls are built, and strongholds fall. And, even more precious, that is where our relationship with God begins to grow roots deep down and impenetrable.
Connect With Our Friend Beth
“Beth Biggers has been following Jesus for 11 years, married to Brandon for 7, and a mom for 5. Her sons Luke and Liam provide her with adventure, laughs, and content for her blog at http://www.bethbiggers.comwhere she writes about family, faith, and urban homesteading.”