Father's Day Reflection (What do you expect from God if you pray?) - Vince Brackett
Father’s Day reflection
Being a father has taught me many things
But, honestly, there is nothing that being a father has taught me more about than this one thing that is just so pivotal in our house right now:
::No, in all seriousness,:: fatherhood has taught me so much in the last six years. The cliche about understanding love at a whole new level and that being an access point for new levels of feeling loved spiritually in our relationships with God - absolutely true. 100%.
Because it’s a relational journey - joys and challenges, beauty and tension, and all of that teaches us about the most foundational relationship of all — ourselves and God’s spirit inside each of us.
One of ::my favorite of Jesus’ teachings:: about God uses fatherhood as its jumping off point and I thought we could visit that today for Father’s Day.
7“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.8For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.9Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone?10Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake?11If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Jesus appeals to his listeners’ sense of what a good father is. Of course a good father would respond to the asks of their children and give off a trustworthy vibe to them, where they expect good gifts. ::Never a stone or a snake for dinner. But bread and fish.::
And then he uses a teaching tool he frequently used: the “how much more” argument — if limited, imperfect, often egocentric people like us (I kinda love the bluntness of the English translation “even you, who are evil” — a little harsh, but can we really argue?) — if we are capable of this as fathers or parents, how much more the Heavenly Father, the God of the universe?
Jesus is gettin at something important: the underlying beliefs in us that, whether we’re aware of it or not, impact our lives a great deal.
::What do you expect from God if you pray?::
What do you expect from the quote “people of God” if you engage such a community?
Jesus’ take is: OF COURSE you should expect good gifts. Why on earth pray to this God, who claims to be Heavenly Father, at all if not?!
And that can seem obvious on the surface. But in the confusions and challenges and traumas of life, this can get distorted.
In Jesus’ time and the times of his ancestors, there were many assortments of gods worshipped, and a good, reliable God, trustworthy to give good gifts was not present. The gods, as the ancient myths tell of them, were more projections of various human motivations, just as selfish and morally-questionable and violent as humanity itself. And that actually served a lot of purpose for the ancients in teaching their virtues and their values, but it (of course) leaves people looking over their shoulders and uncertain about the divine.
So, first of all, it’s important to note that sadly religion can be (and historically often has been) an anxiety-increasing force, just as much if not more than it has been the peace-bringing force I have personally found.
Today, while in general there are no longer various assortments of morally-questionable gods worshipped, the worship of the God of the Abrahamic traditions (the God of Jews Christians and Muslims) is carried out by many in ways that don’t at all match Jesus’ words and tone in this “of course God is good” teaching.
And secondly, and most important to consider today, ::fathers in our world have a unique opportunity to give us the “of course we should expect good gifts” foundation:: so we can make the jump with Jesus to learn this lesson about the Heavenly Father God, but far too often they fail to give us those foundations.
And this makes me grateful for my dad. Because I was definitely given the “of course” foundation.
- Being sick as a kid and dad rubbing my upset stomach till I fell asleep on the couch.
- Being in financial trouble as an underemployed young adult.
- And now being told things like, “why would I leave you money when I die, when I can give it to you now and see you enjoy it?”
My dad wasn’t perfect, but in this, one of the most important and life-dictating opportunities that comes with being a parent, he gets full marks.
I have that foundation of “of course I should expect good gifts from my father” and that allows me to make the jump with Jesus — wow, how much more when it comes to my Heavenly Father?!
And so my priority when it comes to helping along the spiritual development of my children has become passing on that “of course” foundation to my kids that I got from my dad.
My priority is not protecting them from any possible threat or, or sealing them off from any possible corruption of their innocence, or micro-managing them to be as morally perfect as possible (even though, have you noticed that all of those approaches correlate a great deal with churchgoing behavior in America?) To me though, none of those are effective enough to be the foundation of a life-giving experience of faith, that will set up my kids well to be sustained and fed and resourced by God for their whole lives — what is strong enough to be that foundation is what Jesus talks about here: “of course God would give me good gifts.”
::But so many of us don’t have the “of course” foundation.::
Our fathers were absent, or neglectful, or too emotionally detached to feel any connection with, or even abusive.
And if that’s your situation how hard it must be to follow Jesus’ jump from human father to Heavenly Father and think: of course God will give good gifts…
This is where Jesus shaped community is especially important — for so many people I’ve known, communities like ours have been places for people to be re-fathered, to be given the “of course” foundations their childhoods didn’t provide, so that they can take courageous risks to make the jump with Jesus, and discover a reliable and trustworthy God, not a dead-beat dad God.
I’ve seen people discover this while being prayed for, and God just comes to them and they suddenly feel an experience of being loved and considered that rewires them.
Or I’ve also seen people discover this over time through father figure mentor relationships — in which that hole from childhood is filled.
This is a biggie. Having or not having an “of course God would give good gifts” foundational belief is going to determine a hell of a lot about your spiritual life, about your ability to respond with resilience to life’s inevitable stress or crises or traumas, about the ceiling for your ability to experience joy and connection in your life.
It may not be father issues for you personally, there are so many ways life might stunt our spiritual development.
So if, for any reason, you notice in you beliefs like:
- God is busy and probably doesn’t have time for me
- I don’t deserve God’s attention for one reason or another
- God might lead me somewhere I’m not interested
- it would be petty to ask God for what I need or want
- God will be a killjoy and give me things I don’t want
If you have any of those, I want to pray that you can leave those behind today…
Let’s begin with those of us who feel loss or hurt when it comes to our fathers…