I took the plunge recently and enjoyed the silly and seriously entertaining Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. There are some very funny parts to that movie. I especially enjoyed Will Farrell’s prayer times. He is quite the prayer. For those who have not seen the movie, Ricky Bobby has a very specific image of Jesus that he prays to, he likes to pray to baby Jesus.
To quote one of his fine prayers, “Dear little baby Jesus, who’s sittin’ in his crib watchin the Baby Einstein videos, learnin’ ’bout shapes and colors. I would like to thank you for bringin’ me and my moma together, and also that my kids no longer sound like retarded gang-bangers.” The scenes involving his family dinner time prayers are very humorous, but they also touched on a thought I have often had. How you picture God goes a long way in determining how you pray.
What I mean by that is this: our image of God directly effects how we communicate with Him. Growing up I had an image of God sitting on a throne wagging a finger at me. He always saw me doing bad things, and my prayer life mainly consisted of me asking forgiveness. On the days when I felt I had earned God’s favor I might ask for something or just say hi, but those days seemed few and far between. For the most part God was kind of like Santa Claus for me back then. I just tried to stay on the right list.
As I have grown older and my image of God has changed, so too has my prayer life. The biggest change came for me when I began to see God smiling at me. It took me a lot of years to understand how much bigger God’s love and grace are than I could ever imagine. When God looks down on His children who love Him, He smiles. It is amazing that I grew up in the church, in a loving Christian home, and had a degree in Biblical Studies before that thought ever crossed my mind. The words of Zephaniah 3:17 began to ring in my head, “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”
As a parent I understand so much more how God could delight in His children, even when they are immature, stupid, disobedient, and imperfect. As these thoughts of God began to take hold of my soul, I began to seek God out in entirely different ways in my prayer life. Excitedly I rushed to talk to God about the joys and hurts of my life. Remorsefully I confessed, carrying the pain of disappointing a loved one, not just fear of retribution from a higher authority. Submission, obedience, and guidance became much realer to me as my image of God changed.
I hope my image of God will continue to change throughout my life. As I am shaped more and more by God’s hands and by listening to His voice, I pray that I will have bigger and more vivid images of the God I pray to. I hope that a familiarity will develop that will be like that you see of old friends or spouses who have been through so much together and know each other so well that they can sit and enjoy each others company while barely even using words. I pray that I will see God like that one day and the act of seeking Him out will have that kind of familiarity.
So thanks Ricky Bobby, you great big hairy American winning machine. Your infantile prayers are a great reminder of we limit our prayer lives based on our images of God and the desires of our hearts.
May all of us who seek God find images of glory far greater than our imaginations can conjure and far bigger than our minds can actually comprehend.