The family business
He left school at the age of seventeen, with a good set of qualifications. The opportunity to pursue further study was open to him but, instead, he accepted an apprenticeship in the new Hi-Tec manufacturing facility that had opened in the south of the country. For the first time in his life he leaves home and is set up in a rented flat by his new employer. His early weeks in work were deeply challenging, and yet enormously rewarding. He found himself on a very steep learning curve as he learned to use sophisticated robotic machinery, and was sent on various courses to understand the technology and to learn various programming languages. A new and exciting world opened up to him, unlike anything he had experienced before.
As the weeks and months pass, his father becomes aware of the fact that his son is in contact less and less. The boy doesnít hate his father, far from it; he just feels that his new life is now so remote that his father would not understand the sophisticated, Hi-Tec environment in which he is now moving. After all, his father would know absolutely nothing of the world of the factory and the new technology the son is using each day. They seem to have less and less in common, so contact is minimal.
This works as an illustration as to precisely why many people donít pray. They think God is remote and knows little of our world. They think He has neither understanding nor interest nor influence in the world in which we live. They think He does not have any relevance to their daily concerns, and is remote from their daily experience.
They are wrong.
To illustrate how wrong, let me use the same illustration, this time with a twist. Let me tell the young manís story again.
This time letís suppose the father owns the factory.
He left school at the age of seventeen, with a good set of qualifications. The opportunity to pursue further study was open to him but, instead, he accepted an apprenticeship in the new Hi-Tec manufacturing facility that his father had opened and operated in the south of the country. The father promises to teach his son all about the family business that he will one day inherit with his older brother. The son is excited and privileged, and not a little daunted, as he sees the scope of what his fatherís factory does, and the wonderful way the new technology is being introduced. He is eager and enthusiastic and is always calling home for advice and direction and keen to progress his fatherís plans. Far from telling his father about His own inexperienced plans, he is keen to learn of his fatherís purposes. There is constant communication between father and SonÖ.
It is the same with prayer. Prayer-lives are transformed when we realise that the Ďfamily businessí of the Lord God is the redemption and renovation of the world as an inheritance for us to share with Christ in glory. As children, we are called to an integral role in that family business! Like the second story, we ought therefore to be motivated to communicate and interact with the Father.
When we see things this way, we not only become more faithful and enthusiastic in praying, but we become less egocentric in our prayers. Instead of viewing prayer as a version of Aladdinís Lamp, whereby we use it to get what we desire, we begin to realise that prayer is less about persuading God to invest in our misguided plans and more about us being involved in His astonishing and marvellous work in the world. Amazingly, we are heirs of a universe-transforming enterprise. Our Heavenly Father is not a distant and remote or irrelevant figure, but one whose plans we have been invited to be a party, and in whose work we have been called to share.