That's the prayer my parents taught me when I was a little girl, so that I could participate in prayer when we sat down at the table to eat. As soon as I began to talk they taught me to pray - to develop a relationship with God.
Never once did I question that God was there, listening to me. It was a simple childish relationship, just as all children have with everyone. It was all about me when I was very little, I suppose, whether it was the relationship with God, parents or my brother. When I began to talk, it was about what I wanted from them.
I'm certain that changed rather quickly, knowing all four of those individuals as I now do. None of them were interested in a one-way relationship. As all young children should be, I was soon taught that relationships were two-way ... not one-way. They were reciprocal.
I learned that they loved me and that I could trust them. What I had to learn as a wee one was how to really love them and how to be someone they could trust. That is called training. And I certainly had it. Tiny tots are usually selfish. That's human nature (our sin nature), and my parents did a wonderful job of teaching me these things.
It was all very simple. I learned right from wrong, and I learned the Bible. I knew that was our guidebook. We read it every day, we memorized scripture verses, I heard many Bible stories and we learned that we needed to obey God's Word in order to have a good relationship with Him and with each other. It's all so simple - so basic, and yet I see that very few people are taking these simple steps to an abundant and fulfilling life these days. I don't need to visit their homes to discern this because it's so obvious in the behaviors of the parents and the children.
Very quickly, I learned that I didn't always want to do the right thing. My parents explained the sin nature, where it came from and that we all had that problem. But there was a solution, and God himself provided that. I knew from my own tiny behavior that my 'ME' wanted to do things that were wrong ... and I knew they were wrong. I was truly sorry; in fact, it grieved me that I did something that hurt someone else. I had a very tender heart.
By the time I was six years old, on my knees, I told the Lord about it (I repented), and I asked Him to forgive me and to come into my heart and change me, because I couldn't do it by myself. This is how very simple it is to become a Christian.
Now, there was a time in my late teens and my twenties that I neglected this relationship with God, and I stopped reading the Bible, even going to church. I found that the ME had an overwhelming desire to do things MY way. I knew the Lord still loved me, and I loved Him, but not enough to be obedient all the time. Over those years this neglect of my relationship with the Lord resulted in a heap of trouble for me. Nothing was going right.
One day when I was driving down El Dorado Street in Stockton, I glanced over at the large billboard in front of First Baptist Church. I was overcome with grief. I was overwrought with sorrow that I had done such damage to my relationship with God and to my own self. At the same time I was angry because I didn't think God had spoken loudly enough to me over those years, essentially trying to place a portion of the blame on him - just as Adam tried to partially blame God for giving him Eve, who gave him the 'apple.' As I was driving, my eyes full of tears, I spoke to God and let it all out.
It was not a model prayer. I was frankly surprised that He even answered it. But He knew my heart...my motives...my desires. He also knew that I was spiritually immature. He considered all that and still, He answered it. From that moment in time, my life changed radically. It was as if I had been heading north, and after that conversation, I turned and went south. And kept going south from then on. Everything changed over time: my habits, my interests, my desires, my goals. Everything.
That was many years ago. I seldom give it any thought at all, but occasionally something happens that reminds me. Yesterday our washing machine died. Well, you can't go too long without that particular appliance, so I began to think about what we might do without going out and spending $500-600 on a new one.
Frankly, I can't say whether I made any kind of a 'formal' prayer request to the Lord about this, because our conversations are so on-going during any given day, and actually I don't really make that many personal requests. I already know He knows. My husband had to make a trip to town due to serious illness of his uncle who was in the hospital, and I knew he would be gone most of the day. Around 1 PM the phone rang. It was him - calling to tell me that his cousin had an almost new machine that we could have. Who has an extra almost-new washing machine sitting around?!
When we hung up, I laughed out loud, "Thank you so much, Lord." There have been so many, many things like this that have happened in our lives which are too timely and too unusual for coincidence. Besides, I have a practice of thanking the Lord for almost everything, all the time. It is He who has provided and guided our lives. He does have a sense of irony and humor. After all, we were created 'in His image,' so we shouldn't be at all surprised that the qualities we have are the very same ones that He has.
The incident made me stop and think about the many things just like this that have happened so often in our lives. I remember all the times that the Lord had provided in the same way for my parents. Some of these had really been miraculous.
Oh, yes, I've studied the Bible scrupulously. I never stop wanting to find out more about how He works, what He thinks, how He operates. I want to know everything about Him.
Nevertheless, the relationship is simple. It's comfortable. It's reliable. It's surprising, even humorous or ironic at times. He's truly my closest and dearest Friend. It's the most important relationship I've ever had. It's tried and true. Friends and relatives may come and go, but He's the One that will be with me through eternity. Jesus Christ loved me so much He died for me. And you.
It's such a simple faith. And so critically important.