When she was about three, my sister met Queen Elizabeth II.
She wore her best dress.
My sister, I mean, not the queen.
The dress was singularly uncomfortable. Itchy. Tight. Frilly. Flouncy. Easy to dirty. Hard to clean. I know all this because it was my best dress first.
When she came home, completely unfazed by the experience, oblivious to the weeks and months teachers and parents had poured into preparing for the occasion, she reclined on the sofa with a bottle of milk and nonchalantly told us everything she planned to do and say “next time I meet the Queen”. As if she was someone who might pop round for a visit, or bump into you at the shop.
That’s not how it is, of course.
When we talk to an earthly monarch, we have to be on our very best behaviour. We have to show up at the right time, in the right place. We have to wear our itchy, uncomfortable best dress. We have to bring a gift. We have to curtsey or bow, to follow the rules of etiquette. If we show up badly dressed and unannounced at 3am, chances are someone will send us away. We can’t just call up our favourite ruler for a chat while we’re driving or making dinner or lying in bed.
We have to prepare our speech in advance, no matter how short. We have to use our best manners, enunciate carefully. No slang. No regional accents. No emotion. No questioning. No venting. No boring stories about our little lives.
We have to keep our commitments. If we say we’ll meet a monarch at 4pm on Tuesday but we forget or we just don’t bother to show up, we miss our chance. Nothing personal, of course; the waiting list is just enormous.
The fact is, though, that most earthly monarchs wouldn’t be able to make time for us. They don’t know our names. They have no idea what our lives are like. Even if they did find time to squeeze us in, it would be completely conditional. We’d have to be vetted before they invited us. No critics. No criminals. No addicts. No unaccompanied minors. No contagious illnesses. And so on.
The King of Kings, though, is different.
He is sovereign over the entire universe. Omniscient. Omnipotent. Omnibenevolent.
Fully human. Fully God.
Yet He doesn’t require us to stand on ceremony.
After all, he is our loving Father: He’s royalty and family all in one.
He hears us, no matter how we talk, no matter if we don’t use words at all.
He embraces us; no formalities prevent us from getting close to Him.
He does this even if we didn’t show up last time.
He does this even if, in the past, we spoke to him badly, shouted at him, criticised him, ignored him, lied to him, made commitments to him which we didn’t keep.
He doesn’t send us a fancy invitation on expensive cardstock. He waits for us, he cares for us, he welcomes us at any time and in any circumstances.
Have you ever seen how Matthew 6:8-13 is translated in The Message?
“The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:
Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best—
as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.”
As we pray today, let’s meet God with childlike faith and simplicity.
Let’s trust in God to hear our prayers, no matter what we want to tell him, no matter how we say it.
Let’s know that we can’t ever let Him down because, after all, we’re not holding Him up.
Let’s feel secure in the knowledge there’s no magic formula to make him hear us better or help us better or love us better. His love is perfect. His grace is enough. He is the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, the Most High, yet He knows us and cares for us more intimately than any best friend could.
Remember the words of Matthew 6: “this is your Father you’re dealing with.”
So let’s be real with him. Let’s just be with him. Let’s enjoy God.
Suggested Scripture Readings
Please do use other readings as the Holy Spirit directs, these are just some ideas:
Music – Some Ideas
The Lord’s Prayer
His Eye is on the Sparrow
How Great Thou Art
Jesus Loves Even Me
Feeling Unenthusiastic? Video Suggestions
Who’s Your Daddy?