In another life I worked an office job, designing, uploading, and maintaining online content at a university. My supervisor in this position had a reputation as being a bit intimidating. She worked harder than any other three people combined, was incredibly gifted in both her academic field and the arena of technology, and pushed for perfection in all that she did. If there was one thing she struggled with it may have been the ability to display understanding when others failed to exude excellence. Like many others who flourish in their pursuits, she did not always have boatloads of sympathy for those who did not display the diligence she did.
For reasons that I’m still unsure of, my boss took a particular interest in my career development. In a short time, I became recognized as her right hand and experienced great kindness from her. On only one instance do I remember catching the claws that others seemed to experience somewhat regularly.
With no intention to be dishonest, I mistakenly notified her that I had completed a task that I actually had not begun. Doing many of the same processes repetitively in my work days, I simply confused one assignment with another. Needless to say, the reasoning of my error did not carry much weight with her, or any.
The result was a loud, angry, public, insulting tirade. And, it was aimed directly at me. As stormed out the door and headed to her office, I felt small. The tongue lashing certainly wasn’t pleasant, but the biggest sour emotion I was swallowing was the feeling that I had let her down. The boss that had shown me great favor was now the one I had failed. It stung.
I don’t like to feel like a disappointment. Neither do you.
The son who just doesn’t have the physical tools to fulfill his dad’s athletic expectations or the wife whose best effort at dinner cannot evade criticism: it’s disappointing to be disappointing.
Maybe that is why most followers of Jesus seem to shy away from prayer. If we feel that we aren’t very good at it, we must be letting God down, right? No matter how loving of a Father He is, if we compare our prayer experiences with some of the passionate pleas found in scripture, we are prone to walk away feeling like we don’t measure up.
Let me share this verse with you.The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight. – Proverbs 15:8 (HCSB)
Make sure that you caught that. The prayer of the upright, and that’s you if you have accepted the righteousness that Jesus has gifted you and are striving to reflect it, delights God. Delight. That is what your prayers bring God.
The act of sacrifice in the first half of the verse was an act commanded by God. The act was not profane in itself. The problem is with the heart. It was wicked, far from embracing the meaning behind the actions it was presenting. The heart is the focus.
The same rings true or the second half of the verse. The heart is the focus. While we certainly can and should grow in the ability to pray as God commands and provides us to, His focus is not in our oratory skills but on the authenticity with which we approach our Father. The Father looks at the heart of the upright in prayer. More than that, He delights in it.
A good dad is exuberant the first time his child try to say “dada” regardless of how it comes out. The child’s eyes are locked in on Dad, a smile lighting up her little face. Then she says it, kinda, “doaaddddoooaaaaiii.” How does the Father respond? With criticism? Of course not! He’s elated, telling the world, “She said, ‘dada’!”
Maybe you’re starting your journey toward becoming a person of prayer and you feel like you can’t get out of the starting blocks. Or, you’ve struggled for quite some time with prayer and seem to have progressed very little. Don’t be defeated.
If your heart in coming near the Father is sincerely seeking the Father, your prayers aren’t a disappointment. They are a delight.