I’m usually a book-a-day reader; always have been. But I’ve been digesting a book over the past month or so called The PAPA Prayer by Larry Crabb (yes! a nonfiction book! A rarity for me and odd to appear on a blog called "fiction mirrors truth"--) The PAPA Prayer is definitely NOT a one-day read… in fact, it is revolutionizing the way I pray and the way I see myself.
P.A.P.A is the acronym Crabb uses to illustrate his 4-step process to relational prayer. (yes, an acronym. I know.)
The first step of Crabb’s prayer is to “Present yourself to God.” This is the no-holds-barred “Hey, man… this is how I’m feeling about me and about you right now” place where I whine a while before I realize I’m whining. (LOL) The next step is to “Attend to how you’re thinking about God.” Crabb suggests picturing the Revelation Christ—the scary Holy warrior with lightning-fire eyes and a sword coming out of his mouth.
“But that isn’t very comforting!” you’re thinking, "I like Jesus with the children and stuff!"
So today, I pictured that particular, slightly frightening view of God while I read Psalm 139; a highlighted Psalm which, in the past, has always been a sweet sort-of passage of comforting Abba-Daddy time for me. Well, Psalm 139 comes off a little differently when you’re faced with the Lightening-fire Eyes and Sword mouth of the Revelation Christ.
“O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. (uh-oh.) You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. (Oh, crap.) You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. (um-hm. right. Darn.) Before a word is on my tongue (stop, stop, already!) you know it completely, O LORD. (sigh) You hem me in—behind and before; (could someone show me the exit, please?) you have laid your hand upon me." (Like it wasn’t hot enough with those eyes staring me down!)
(taken from NIV, parenthetical interjections mine)
That reminds me of a time when my Papa Eric was having a dementia moment about a year ago and, as was his habit, gave his usual Lutheran blessing to me. “May the Lord bless you and keep you,” he began as always; but then, he decided to crank it up a notch and change the meaning a bit. His tone darkened, his eyes piercing me as he continued, “Make his face stare right at you...”
AAAHHHHHHG! He must’ve been thinking about the Revelation Christ, too.
In step three, you “Purge yourself of anything that blocks your relationship with God” – which is a lot easier to see after you've been run-through with that sword a couple of times. Anyway, Crabb spends a lot of time focusing on relational sin with our human counterparts because how we behave/think within those relationships shows us who we really are and what is truly blocking us from enjoying the fullness of God. I thought looking at the Revelation Christ was uncomfortable—looking at my own heart was downright, well… disheartening!
As it turns out, I’m completely self-obsessed. Sure, I knew this before I read the book, but now, knowing what I’ve learned from reading it, I have to see that ugliness for what it is each time I approach the throne of God. Ouch.
So after all this nastiness is attended to, you get to move to step four, which I’ve paraphrased: “Approach God with confidence as the first thing in your life and stand before God as a loved child.” Now this, this is where another couple of Papas helped me out. The character of “Papa” in William P. Young’s book, The Shack (see post further down) and my own Papa Eric have made the second part of that step a breeze for me because I know what it feels like to approach an authority figure completely confident in that person’s love for you. It’s the first part I stumble on. So many things vie for that first place; my family, my writing, especially; not to mention all those nasty other areas of self-obsession which mutate and renew themselves each day as I experience Step 3 of the PAPA prayer.
But it’s a process, isn’t it? I’m just a 36 year old kid out here trying to figure it out.