Of Infancy and Prayer

What could be more powerful than an infant?

            When a baby enters a room all activity stops. Even strangers put down what they are doing to look. Perfectly sane adults are reduced to acting like babbling morons for the sake of a smile. A baby need not do anything at all to be loved. He just is and that is enough. A baby cries and almost instantly some adult moves to meet a need. All he need do is keep crying until the right option is found. Out of nowhere the provisions arrive: food, blankets, a dry diaper, a hug, a place to lie down. All right there because this little voice cries out for satisfaction.

            Psychologists, who say a great many strange things, tell us that the dreaded “terrible twos” are really the child’s efforts to recapture the lost power of his infancy. Somewhere along the way the two-year-old discovers that people are not responding to his cries as they used to. Perhaps the rudest of all awakenings come when there is a swat to the bottom for some little misdeed and the offending adult actually wants the little one to cry! How did this reversal of fortunes occur, the child wonders. And so our pint sized human decides to put things back in order by crying louder, by slapping older sister, by grabbing a toy out of another child’s hands. But alas! the power is gone.

            It is not certain that we ever quite surrender the idea of getting the power back. Perhaps in our preconscious memories we want to enjoy again that absolute power that caused people to move at our whimper, to supply our needs until we nodded off in satisfied sleep.

            Too often this notion is carried right into the Christian life. We sit on our little perch and view the world. “I would like to see this person do this,” we think, or “If I could just get one of those toys, all would be well.” But crying brings no answers. We need one of those big people who used to be at our beck and call. And who better to fit the bill than the Almighty God Himself? After all, if He is indeed the Creator and Ruler over everything, can’t He change this person or this event the way we like it?

            When we enter prayer with this attitude we come to God with our list of things for Him to do and, of course, our ideas of how He ought to go about doing it. In this world of baby prayer, we feel no pain. No one dies, no one suffers, all we wish for is delivered regardless of whether or not it is good for us. The driving force is the intensity of our wants, the piercing shrillness of our cries. God is seen as our assistant, allowed to come alongside and deliver what we want while we surrender nothing. If He fails to answer us as we want, then we have the right to be angry, to shake our fists, to stomp our feet. We angrily declare that He is a God who lives to disappoint us or He simply isn’t as powerful as we were told. Like the two-year-old who finds that he is no longer the center of the universe, we sulk or decide we will go ahead and take the something that someone else already has or find our own way apart from Him. That’ll show Him!

            We have a grand society of two-year-olds, going around trying to recover the infant’s power to control the world around them. Isn’t that the thrust of the “name it and claim it gospel” that is now corrupting the Christian message? We give God nothing and for His part, He is allowed to give us whatever we want. The goal is for God to make us feel warm and comfortable.

Isn’t it strange how rare the word “surrender” has become? Surrender is not in our collective dictionary.  It is not often the subject of sermons or found in the poetry of new songs sung in church. Surrendering means we realize that we are not the pivot point of the universe. It means that God is not our assistant but that we are His.  It means that our will is merged with the Master’s. It is what He wants, it is what He says, it is where He sends that is important. It means that while we continue to pray for the things that are on our hearts, we trust His heart to act in ways far beyond our understanding. The quiet words of one of those old songs whisper the truth.

            Sweet will of God, still fold me closer,

             Till I am wholly lost in Thee.

Being lost in Him means we have surrendered. It means we have realized that the power we sought to regain from our infancy was only an illusion. Even then, in what we thought were our most powerful days we were the picture of weakness. It was because we were so weak the world moved to meet our need, to provide and to protect us from the things that were harmful.  Surrender begins by realizing how weak we are and how strong He is. Then we can find rest in His everlasting arms.