The problem with having faith is, as soon as I find out something is impossible, I start trying to figure out how to do it anyway. I believe that, where there is prayer, there are no dead ends.
When some people find out I pray, they say things like, "Oh, you pray? Will you pray for me because I don't know how." Or, "It's just been too long since I prayed..." or they tell me God won't hear them because of something they've done.
Geez, that's nuts! I'm a human being. I make mistakes every time I turn around. Sometimes it's just because I'm a clumsy, messy, chaotic human with things to work on; and sometimes because I get stubborn and just DECIDE to do the wrong thing. Sound familiar? Of course it does. But since when can't you talk to God just because you messed up? That's when you need him the most.
Even if I just say, "Don't give up on me!" that's a prayer. Sometimes I actually tell God, (as if he doesn't know already) "I don't really want to do the right thing; please help." Or, "I'm having trouble believing you even exist."
He knows anyway; I might as well be honest.
When God looks at you, he doesn't see someone he wants to punish and ignore. He sees someone he wants to teach. He is on your side. He's rooting for you. He WANTS you to win.
Everyone has a different idea of who God is. If you think of him as the father, or just a parent in general, and you don't have a very good relationship with your earthly parents, it can distort your image of God. If your parent was overly critical, judgmental, unloving, emotionally unavailable, angry ... you may see God that way without even understanding WHY.
Even when I try to think of it from the perspective of a parent, it gets very tricky, because I have a bad temper sometimes, and I sure don't want God to lose it with me.
But I do know the model for family is supposed to be his relationship with us. And I know my attitude toward my children is one of acceptance and constant love, even if the warm emotions aren't always present.
I remember sitting on the bed next to them when they were little, singing a lullaby and stroking their hair, trying to get them to nod off to sleep. They would look so innocent as they drifted off, bathed in the light streaming in through the half-opened door.
As I sang to my little ones, I would flash back on all the times I had to tell them NO! You can't have one more cookie. NO! You can't duct tape your brother to a chair. NO! You can't carry the rest of your oatmeal to school in your pants pocket. Not again!
I would say a prayer for their dreams to be sweet, kiss them gently on the forehead, and take one last look before I went about my business. And, every single time, my heart would turn to mush.
Now, where do I think I got the ability to care this deeply for my children? Who gave me the idea of what it is to be a mom?
I can never refuse when my babies want to climb up on my lap and snuggle, even when they just colored all over the kitchen floor with permanent marker, or spilled grape juice on the rug.
You know when you first fall in love, it seems like the object of your affection can do no wrong? God doesn't just decide to see through the eyes of love and ignore your sins. He completely erases them the minute you ask for forgiveness. That's right! He sees you as PERFECT, with no reason whatsoever not to climb up into his lap and have a talk. Go ahead, what are you waiting for?
There are also people who do pray, but don't really expect an answer.
Well, if I told you that God told me this or that, would you think I was off my rocker? Then why bother to pray? If you give God a chance to speak and act, he will. Hush up and listen!
You may suddenly get an idea you didn't have before, or a friend will call and have the answer you're seeking. Maybe God will tell you gently, in a voice only your heart can hear. Maybe he's waiting to tell you when the time is right.
Let him get a word in edge-wise. You'll get your answer.
Cindy Lincoln of Marietta is the author of two books, "Dukin' It Out With God" (November 2009) and "Amata's Impossible Dream," due to be released this spring. Thoughts of Faith is a weekly column written by various ministers and lay people.