I recently started reading John Henry Jowett’s God — Our Contemporary. I’ve fallen in love with Jowett’s style. His sermons are interminably readable. And this is a prime example. Taking Luke 18:1 as his text, Rev. Jowett proceeds to expound upon the Savior’s imperative that “men ought always to pray.” In a particularly affecting passage, he takes time to articulate what exactly he means by prayer. Namely, Jowett intends to draw a distinction between praying and petitioning in order to show that praying doesn’t always need to be a time of merely asking God for things. Rather, to use his words, prayer should resemble a “wondering child walking in the revealing companionship of the Father.” He writes:
There are seasons when I would come to the King, burdened with intercessions, and I would spread the world of my necessities before the favour of His grace. I am coming to a King, but I am coming to more than a King. I am coming to a Father, and Fatherhood is larger than Kinghood, just as home is larger than a throne. A king may have gifts at his disposal, he may have honours and benefits and offices to confer upon his subjects; but fatherhood moves in a circle of intimacies and shared secrets, even in the matchless commerce of truth and grace and love. When prayer turns into this marvellous realm it is not so much a suppliant, laden with petition, as a wondering child walking in the revealing companionship of the Father in heaven. Prayer is not always like Lazarus, clothed in rags, and bowing in suppliancy at the rich man’s gate; it is sometimes like Lazarus in the Father’s bosom, dwelling in the secret place of the most High, and walking and talking in the shadow of the Almighty . . .
No, prayer is not always petition, sometimes it is just communion. It is the exquisite ministry of friendship. It is the delicate passage of intimacies; it is the fellowship of the Holy Ghost.1
I love this image. I’ve often said that God doesn’t want our relationship with him in prayer to consist only of “fire extinguisher prayers” — those cries to him in the midnight of the soul when stuff’s really hitting the fan. When the world’s spinning out of control. Don’t get me wrong: he loves answering the prayers of the desperate. That’s sort of his M.O. (Ps 34:18) But God’s affections for you are also attuned to when you’d just like to talk. Therefore, with childlike wonder, we can pray. With innocent feeling, we can talk with our Heavenly Father, whose ears are forever bent towards his sons and daughters. The sovereign Ruler of the heavens gives you his undivided attention.
Let that sink in. That’s the type of Father you have. The Creator of the stars and the Sustainer of all the vast, uncharted planetary systems is the same Father who invites you to come him, weary and wondering as you are. He’s ready to hear you.
John Henry Jowett, God—Our Contemporary (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1922), 12–13.