by Rob Tims
Before my wife became my wife, I had to court her. The primary obstacle to a successful courtship—other than my being broke, under massive school debt and my physique—was the distance between us: she in Denton, TX and me in Birmingham, AL. We had no mobile phones with “free” long distance. We could not afford conventional long distance calls. We grew weary chatting on AOL. So, I got creative.
Technically, I got crafty.
Once I bought her a mirror at Wal-Mart … a wall-hanging mirror … and I painted a Bible verse from Song of Solomon all round it on the wood frame and the glass: “All beautiful you are my darling! There is no flaw in you.”
Crafty. Nerdy. Effective.
You see, I could see her, but I wanted her to be able to look into a mirror and see what I see.
Likewise, prayer is a mirror.
Prayer reflects us and reflects God. When we look into it, we learn something about ourselves and God and what we believe about God.
Consider Luke 18:9-14 (CSB).
9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee was standing and praying like this about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like other people—greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’
13 “But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
As we pray or listen to others pray, we may look into that mirror and see someone who is very moral: someone who doesn’t cheat or commit adultery, for example (v. 11).
We may see someone who is very religious: someone who fasts twice a week, and gives a tenth of her income (v. 12).
We see someone who thanks God she is moral and religious (v. 11).
And if we do see someone like all three of those things, we might also see someone who thinks he is better than everyone else and that is sorely mistaken about his position before God.
Or, when we pray, we could see someone who is humble and broken … dependent on God, and therefore right with God (vv. 13-14).
And, when we look into the mirror prayer, we can learn something about God.
We learn that God is not impressed with our pious acts and our looking down on others as if we are superior to them in some way. We learn that God is merciful and eager and willing to set repentant, humble people right with through faith, not works.
You see, prayer is a mirror.
What do you see when you listen to prayers?
What do you see when you pray?
Prayer is a mirror. What do you see?
Rob Tims is husband to Holly and father to Trey, Jono, Abby Jane and Luke. He’s the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt, and manages the team behind smallgroup.com at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He writes regularly at RobTims.com and blogs every Friday at Forward Progress.