When Jesus says to “let the little children come to me,” He seems to be calling His followers to certain attractive “child-like” qualities – humility, wonder, joy and unguarded earnestness.
In anticipation of the Global Prayer Gathering, IJM staff have corporately been considering the idea of entering next weekend in a posture of Unguarded Earnestness. What does that mean? What does it look like? I think of “earnestness” as utmost sincerity, approaching something with the fullest intention of doing it well or treating someone with lavish kindness. Perhaps you’ll still mess up, but your intentions and efforts reflect a desire to give your all.
For me, “unguarded” is the scarier part. That translates to straight-up vulnerability – being totally open, able to be at best molded into a truer reflection of Christ and at worst trampled upon, left seriously hurt and wounded.
It’s that vulnerable sincerity, though, that turns prayers into true faithfulness. When we approach the Father, our prayers should not only be honest and genuine, but our petitions should be, as we say at IJM, crazy pants prayers – “big, hairy, audacious” ones that only a loving Father far more powerful than ourselves could answer. There is no way we could make that prayer happen without God, so we come to Him fully dependent, with unguarded earnestness, faithfully believing that He not only hears our prayers but answers them also.
I’ve been thinking about the way unguarded earnestness could transform more than our prayers. What about everyday life? Our actions toward others, our work, our after school activities or the strength of our relationships would all be transformed! It looks like having an “all-in” attitude, combining the belief that what you do matters and not allowing anything to hold you back from giving it your full efforts. Giving friends your full attention because they matter more than the task at hand demonstrates your value for them. Not half-assing a project because you believe that your contribution makes a difference. Believing you can break 20 minutes in your next 5K or that you can make a goal at the next game brings more diligence and purpose to your practice. Even in a relationship conflict or marital problem – wholeheartedly devoting yourself to righting wrongs because you believe that the other person is worth it. All of this from a posture of unguarded earnestness.
At the same time, we don’t want to be “childish” – foolish, immature, irresponsible, unstable, silly or naive. If I run a 25 minute 5K, just hoping that it will be 20 minutes next week would be irrational. There are nearly 30 million slaves today. Praying that injustice will be eradicated tomorrow would show a lack of analysis and reason. Just imagine Stephen Colbert and Tina Fey making fun of the Global Prayer Gathering. Right. 1200+ people are going to get together and pray, and as you stand there and worship the sky, people will be brought out of bondage. Ha!
It’s easy to be cold-hearted and have fears of judgment of being naive about very serious, big issues. But the posture changes the approach. If we approach prayer or our everyday life issues with the child-like quality of unguarded earnestness, we come knowing that prayer does work and our interactions with others will shift. We come desperately needing Jesus’ grace and abundant life. We come eager and expectant for His power, attentive to Him and fully devoted; strengthened, refreshed, fully present and utterly grateful for every good gift the Holy Spirit gives. We’re not worshiping the sky. We’re worshiping a God with an unchanging character – One who for all eternity has heard the cries of His children and longs to bring life and freedom.