“If you, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” Luke 11:13
More than five years ago, during a season of life when I was knee-deep in changing diapers, making meals, and keeping three little people alive, my prayer life was pretty dry— nonexistent, really. Studying God’s Word and filling in blanks on a Bible study was something I could handle, but prayer seemed like one more relational task for which I didn’t have time or energy.
But a challenge from a friend changed all that. I got a glimpse into the ordinary, daily rhythms of her prayer life and her commitment to pray for others, my family included, on a consistent basis. And more than anything, I saw the fruit this woman’s prayer life was bearing. Quietly and in a behind-the-scenes kind of way, this woman was affecting an entire neighborhood and group of people by the work of her hands and the prayers of her heart.
So, because of her example, I decided to start praying as well. The first few years of prayer were more like checking off names and items on a to-do list before the Lord than experiencing real relational intimacy or internal change.
But then we adopted our youngest daughter, Mia Grace, from an orphanage in China when she was 17 months old. And adoption changed everything, for her, of course, but for me as well. As my husband and I began the long process of helping Mia Grace securely attach to us, I saw myself in our daughter. Legally, she was our child, and we had the court documents to prove it, but in many ways, she still acted like an orphan.
But the primary thing that began to change her orphan habits into secure, confident behavior was sensory connection. When she hurt herself, we taught her she could cry out, and we would be there to comfort her. When she woke up in the morning or from her nap, we taught her she had a voice and could call out, “Momma, I’m awake!” and we would come to get her. When eye contact and intimate touch like hugging, rocking, and holding were difficult for her to receive, we taught her by slow degrees that she had permission to be dependent instead of independent and nestle into our arms and laps. When she sat at the table and refused to eat anything that did not come from her own hand, we slowly taught her that mommy and daddy were there to help her body receive the nutrition it needed and craved.
And through daily, repeated attempts at secure sensory connection, her defenses and orphan habits slowly and surely came down through the touch of our hands, the look in our eyes, the sound of our voices, the taste of our goodness as her parents, and the constancy of our presence.
Through this process, I began to see myself in Mia Grace. I, too, had been adopted by a Father, but one who, unlike me, was good, perfect, and loving in every way. Yet I often acted like an orphan. I pushed away the touch of His hands, demanded to feed myself the food of my own choosing on my own plate, nursed my own hurts and wounds instead of calling out for comfort, and spent more time looking down and in instead of up and out as the secure, confident daughter He created me to be.
And gradually, I realized that if I, as a very imperfect parent, could change certain orphan habits in Mia Grace through secure, sensory connection, then my perfect heavenly father could certainly accomplish secure, sensory connection with me, His beloved child, through the regular practice of prayer.
So, instead of seeing my prayer life as a to-do list to check off, I began to see it as necessary face-time with my Heavenly Father who heard, saw, touched, comforted, guided, led, and invited me to taste and see His goodness. And little by little, I saw how persistent prayer slowly changed—and is still changing—my independent orphan habits into the dependent, trusting responses of an adopted, secure child.
So if you, like me, act more like an orphan than a beloved child, take time this summer to slow down, and come to the table of prayer. Allow God to rewrite your story by telling you His story, through the lens of His Word. And sit down at a feast where you are regularly invited to taste, see, talk, listen, and receive the healing grace of a good Father who knows exactly what you need and longs to have face- time with you, His beloved child. Secure connection is waiting.
Sacred Story is honored to have Susannah Baker as a guest contributor this month. Susannah’s prayer guide and accompanying prayer journal, Secure, will be released this summer. To learn more about these resources and to read Susannah’s blog, you can visit her at www.susannahbaker.com.