One of the ugliest sights in the world is that of a child who rules over his parents. We have all seen it, I’m sure. We have seen parents who tiptoe around their child’s cries, their child’s demands, their child’s outbursts of anger. They will do whatever he dictates, give whatever he commands. We look on with horror, knowing they have set their child on a path to destruction.
Children are born foolish. They desire the things that will ruin them, crave the things that will harm them, long for the things that will destroy them. It is the task of loving parents to help their children grow in wisdom, and wisdom comes through both giving and denying—giving what is good and denying what is harmful. Parents must love their children enough to deny them their desires, enough to often say a firm “no.” Parents must love their children enough to save them from themselves.
We are children of God and often as foolish as toddlers. And even when we are not full-blown foolish, we are always limited in ways God is not—limited in our knowledge, limited in our grasp of the world, limited in the wide scope of God’s providence. He is the Father and we are the kids. Yet he is not a cold and distant Father or one who rules without our input, without accounting for our hopes, our longings, our preferences. Rather, he invites us to pray to him, to make our desires known. “Our Father in heaven…,” we pray. Let us never lose the wonder of addressing the God of all the universe as “Father,”—our Father, my Father.
Yet as we address God as Father, we must not behave like children who are peevish or petulant. We must not make demands, we must not level accusations or provide ultimatums. We must always pray that God’s will will be done, that God’s wisdom will be showcased, that God’s glory will be displayed. We must pray with an awareness of our own shortsightedness, of our own feeble understanding. Our purpose in prayer is not so much to get God to cede to our every whim, but to better align our will with his. We, not he, are the ones who are changed through prayer.
One of the ugliest sights in the world is that of a child who rules over his parents. But ahead of even that is the sight of human beings who believe they have the right to rule over their God—who erupt in anger, who are insistent, who demand that God do things their way. They ought to know that the gap between their knowledge and God’s is infinitely greater than the gap between the knowledge of a toddler and that of an adult. They ought to trust that the good Father will provide what they need, what they would ask for if they knew all that he knows, if they were perfectly unfolding a plan so great, so wondrous, so perfect as his.