Being destitute simplifies things. A destitute person has simple needs and his prayers are simple too.
That simplicity is provoked by a certain urgency. Someone who recognizes just how needy he is has no time to mess around. So his prayers become a variation on the same theme: “God help me!” That, my friends, is a simple and urgent prayer with three words worth unpacking. Let’s unpack the first and most important part of that prayer: “God.”
I remember when my daughter was just two or so, wanting to move a box of toys from her room into the living room. She pleaded for help, but I told her she could do it. I promised to walk beside her the whole way. It took some convincing, but she finally reached her little fingers around the edge of the box and pulled it into her chest. Her eyes were just peaking above the box that was bigger than she was.
A few huffs and grunts and the box was up. Her eyes brightened as she took one step and then another, down the hall, into the living room, and finally staggered to a stop. The box dropped and she put both hands on her hips with incredible gratification as if to say, “See? I am a big girl!” I had walked the length right by her side as promised, but she had no idea that I had held the box up with my own hand.
That story is a fitting description of how God walks with us. We are the little girl huffing and puffing through life, struggling under a weight which we aren’t really carrying and fearing circumstances totally in his control. He carries us. He carries our burdens. If we imagined life like that, like it really is, then we might start living differently.
Unfortunately, many people have constructed God in their own image. Like them, he is recalcitrant, quick to judge, quick to anger, and has a ready list of all our failures in his mind’s back pocket. He is a god whom we would dodge should we see him down the isle at Fred Meyers. And so we do. We dodge him most of the week and most of our lives until something forces us to confront our neediness.
In our desperate need, our vocabulary simplifies. That simplification starts with “God.” The first word of a destitute’s prayer is “God” and rightfully so. Everything starts with him. He is the source and sustainer of life. He holds all things together. You and me and all our particles included. Whatever those particles do comes as no surprise to the one who speaks them into being and who makes them move. Jude 1:25 says, “All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.” That about sums it up.
None of the glory, majesty, power, or authority belong to me. They belong to God. What a relief! God is able to do far more than we ever ask, let alone imagine, and his power is at work within us. Not our power. His.
When we finally encounter God, despite our best efforts to avoid or appease him, we face staggering degrees of bewilderment. We’ve spent all these years thinking one way, only to discover that we’ve been seeing upside down all along. Our destitute state is made manifest to us, leaving us helpless (as we always were) and trying to cope with that new reality.
For all these reasons, and about a billion more, the first word of a destitute’s prayer is “God”: “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
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