I sat motionless at my desk, staring at the telephone as if it were about to leap up at any minute and pin me against the back of my chair. Just a few minutes ago it had been my ally, facilitating a conversation with my best friend who was living almost 6,000 miles away. Now it seemed too dangerous to touch.
The year was 1997, and I had committed to a one-year missions endeavor in Krasnodar, Russia. On this day, however, my thoughts were on the girl who had dropped me off at the airport in Tennessee several months earlier. We had occasionally conversed through e-mail and very rare phone calls, but this time had been different. For the first time I seriously contemplated that she just might become my wife. The mixed feelings of surprise and anticipation that accompanied this revelation turned to fear as I sat eying the telephone. If I were going to think about pursuing her when I returned to the States, I would have to call him.
I had met him several times and had even stayed at his house for a few days. I knew he approved of me as Lori’s friend, but applying to become a son-in-law is an entirely different thing. I knew that I had to call him to inform him of my intentions, but that evil phone just kept staring back at me. How does one make such a call?
Over and over in my mind I kept replaying what I would say. I reached for the receiver, began dialing the host of numbers necessary to make an international call, then slammed it down again and tried to stop hyperventilating while I wiped the sweat pouring off my brow.
Why was I so terrified? It was because I knew the importance of the one I was calling. I wanted something from him. I was not just requesting to borrow his car or a few bucks. I was asking for his daughter. All that mattered was that I could find some way to mask the trepidation in my soul and make a good impression on this man.
Maybe you have never been forced to endure such an experience. But have you ever prayed? If you are a child of God, you have been granted permission to “come boldly” (Hebrews 4:16) before Him with your petitions. However, we often misuse this ability by approaching Him with nonchalance. If we can experience such fear when approaching another man, should we not have that same kind of respect for God?
Jesus specifically rebuked those who use “vain repetitions” (Matthew 6:7) in their prayers. Apparently God isn’t interested in just hearing some repetitive phrase or pre-written prayers that we think have some magical significance. That does not mean that we cannot repeat our requests, but that our requests must come from the heart.
When you receive a card for your birthday, do you pay more attention to the professional printing or what is handwritten inside? Most likely, it is the personalized note that is more special to you. Why? Because it was written from the heart by someone who wants to communicate with you. Maybe that’s what God wants—communication from the heart of someone who loves Him.
When my family sits at the table, I usually call on one of the children to thank God for the food. My three-year-old son, however, recently began to notice that he never got chosen for this privilege. One day as I was about to make my selection, he demanded, “I want to make noise!” It took me a minute to realize that he was asking to “make noise” by praying. Wow. I wonder if that’s what God hears often when we pray? Is it nothing more than noise?
This article was published in my Connections: Relating the Bible to Everyday Life column in the Bremen Enquirer on Thursday, August 29, 2013.