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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.
The Scriptorium

The True Spirit of Prayer (2)

Like children, you know? Luke 18.15-17

Luke 17 (3)

Pray Psalm 123.2.
Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters,
As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes look to the LORD our God,
Until He has mercy on us.

Sing Psalm 123.2.
(Darwall: Rejoice, the Lord is King)
As servants strain to see their earthly lord’s command,
so we would in Your Presence be and firmly stand!
Refrain v. 2
We look to You! Have mercy, Lord,
upon us by Your sovereign Word.

Read Luke 18.1-17; meditate on verses 15-17.

1. How did the disciples react to people bringing their children to Jesus?

2. What did Jesus say about the Kingdom of God?

I checked several commentaries on these verses for some insight on prayer. Little was proffered, as the writers focused on children, what they’re like, and why Jesus welcomes them. Erasmus came the closest to getting at the “as a little child” aspect of this (see the quote that follows).

But I want to see this text as lining up with the first two passages in Luke 18. This vignette is about prayer, which is the primary discipline and lifestyle attribute of Kingdom citizens.

We tend to think of prayer as talking with God in one form or another. Indeed, all the Hebrew and Greek words imply as much. But undergirding and enabling these is something more important and more essential to prayer: being in the Presence of the Lord. We can’t talk with Him unless we have come into His Presence, and, as we have seen, that requires a certain attitude and disposition of the soul.

Children model this when they come into the embrace of a beloved adult. They want to be close. They receive the adult’s embrace, trusting in their good intentions. They will wait to see what the adult might say, or what may be asked of them. We’re talking about the ideal of children, of course, but we can all envision those children with Jesus, gazing on His face, snuggling into His arms, content above all just to be there with Him.

Contentment. Closeness. Gazing with love. Waiting in joy. I don’t know what you call this attitude, but it seems very important that, as Kingdom citizens, we learn it and practice it as part of what Jesus expects. Let’s ask ourselves: Do we enjoy the Presence of Jesus? Are we enthralled with Him? Do we stand amazed in His Presence and say, “How marvelous! How wonderful!” That’s the true spirit of prayer.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
The quote from Erasmus is lovely, no doubt, but one wonders: did he have children?

We raised four adorable children, children who could not have been loved more than we loved them. And still do.
But really? No deceit, no contempt, no striking back, no repaying of insults, no greed, no self-seeking, and uncompromised innocence? Those are the characteristics of children? I, too, was a child, and I can say unequivocally, those words do not describe me.

The little people in this passage were infants (Lk. 18.15); but then Jesus does say, “Let the little children come to Me” (Lk. 18.16); regardless, here is what I think about that. Infants and children, as least the ones I have known (including myself) let their requests be made known. No one is left questioning: “Wonder what they want?” If they are hungry, they scream. If their diaper needs changing, they cry. If they are finished sleeping, they wail until picked up. If they want something that they see, they violently gesture and point in the direction of the desired object. If it is within reach, they grab it. But whatever it is that troubles or infatuates them, they want their desire fulfilled now!

Could it be, that greedy characteristic of children, is what Jesus wants us to have for the Kingdom of God? We cry for it, we long for it, we grab it lustily, and we want it now!

Years ago, our normally mild-mannered daughter Ashley saw a stuffed frog in a store that she had to have. She pointed, she gestured, she cried, she wanted that frog, and she wanted it now! And she got it. No questions asked.

And that is exactly how God answers our prayers for the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Lk. 11.13).

“May He grant you according to your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your purpose” (Ps. 20.4).
“You have given him his heart’s desire, and have not withheld the request of his lips” (Ps. 21.2)

God wants us to channel the selfish, albeit helpless, nature of children in our desire for His Kingdom, for His Holy Spirit, and for the good works He has called us to do. “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2.13).

“But earnestly desire the best gifts” (1 Cor. 12.31). Cry for them, long for them, grab them greedily, and do it now! Wholehearted, wholesome, focused, determined prayer. Like little children. Screaming for the Kingdom.

For reflection
1. Children know what they want when they want it, and they’re not shy about trying to obtain it. How does this apply to our calling to seek the Kingdom of God?

2. Children can be so trusting and content with someone they know and trust. How does this instruct us about the work of prayer?

3. Children are above all dependent on those who love them regardless of how they may act at times. What do we learn from this about prayer?

Children know no deceit, they know no contempt, they know no striking back, they know no repaying of insults, they know no greed, they know no self-seeking; their innocence is uncompromised, their simplicity is uncompromised. I tell you, the kingdom of God welcomes only those transformed to this image. Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536), Paraphrase on the Gospel of Luke 18:17.8

Pray Psalm 123.1, 3, 4.
In your prayer today, concentrate on the Presence of Jesus with you. You have been seated with Him in heavenly places (Eph. 2.6). What is that like? How does envisioning this affect your attitude toward Jesus? Toward prayer? Look to the Lord on His throne and call on Him for strength for this day’s work.

Sing Psalm 123.1, 3, 4.
Darwall: Rejoice, the Lord is King)
To You we lift our eyes, O God enthroned above!
With longing gaze and heaving sighs we plead Your love!
Refrain v. 2
We look to You! Have mercy, Lord,
upon us by Your sovereign Word.

Have mercy, Lord, we pray; our souls are weary, worn.
The wicked world condemns our way and heaps up scorn.

Our souls are sore oppressed by this world’s ease and pride.
In You we would be healed and blessed, and in You hide.

T. M. and Susie Moore

You can download all the studies in our Luke series by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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