A story was once told about a little boy and his father who were walking along a country road laughing and talking, just having a good old time. They came across a large stone sitting at the edge of the road. The boy looked at the stone and thought for a moment. Then he asked his father, "Do you think I can move that rock?" The father didn't hesitate. "I'm sure you can — if you use all your strength!"
That was all the lad needed to hear. He ran to the rock. He pushed and he pushed. Then he pulled and pulled. He grunted and groaned. Beads of sweat popped out on his forehead. But the rock didn't move. Not an inch, not half an inch. Finally, the boy slumped to the ground, defeat written all over his face. "I can't do it." His father put his hand on his son's shoulder. "I still think you can do it," he said. "You just didn't use all your strength." The boy gave his father a quizzical look. "You didn't ask me to help."
It is difficult for some to ask others for help. It could be, like the example of the boy, we may not realize we need help. Maybe it is the rugged American individualism that keeps us from seeking a helping hand, or perhaps, we just do not want to bother others. Recently, I felt that tension of not wanting to interfere when I needed to ask a busy receptionist for assistance. Peering over her glasses, her eyes said to me, "I'm too busy for this." It's hardest to ask for help when we feel the individual we need help from isn't into it.
Sometimes this is how we can view prayer — we are not sure if God is into it. A bare bones definition of prayer is a cry to God for help. But what if God is not available? He is the superintendent of the universe. Maybe he has bigger things to do. Perhaps my burdens are insignificant to one of his stature. What if God doesn't care?
Let's back up for just a moment and think about the easiest person to ask for help. For most, that would be a family member or a close friend. We are talking about someone who is on your side, someone who is for you. Someone who would pick your kids up from school if you were not available or loan you a couple of bucks until the next payday. In Matthew 7:9-11, Jesus Christ instructs us that prayer is a family tie, "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish will give him a snake? If you, then though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?" Prayer is not meaningless chatter. It is not all about form and ritual. The voice of prayer is relational. It is intimate communication between God the father and a son or daughter.
Is it possible that we have failed to grasp how much God cares? Jan Hettinga, in his book "Follow Me," asks this question, "What if God is the most misunderstood being in the universe?" Fathers give good gifts to their children. When we humble ourselves and pray to God, we are talking with someone who cares deeply for us.
Maybe you need a new attitude about prayer. I encourage you to realize that prayer is not about fancy words or saying it right, but rather a relational connection with the God of the universe.
It would change all of our lives for the better if we began to trust God as father and depended on his help. Our kids and others would be pointed to God and our hearts would experience satisfying hope. Let's let God help us move the stones in our lives.
Norm Byers is the lead pastor of Genesis Church, with two locations and NEW TIMES: Meeting Sundays at 9:30 a.m. at North Central Michigan College and 11 a.m. at Boyne City Elementary. Comments and insights are welcomed on Twitter @NormByers.