The PAPA Prayer

Trappist monk Basil Pennington captures the simplicity of prayer when he writes:

“A father is delighted when his little one, leaving off his toys and friends, runs to him and climbs into his arms. As he told his little one close to him, he cares little whether the child is looking around, his attention flitting from one thing to another, or if he’s intent upon his father, or just settling down to sleep. The father doesn’t care, because essentially the child is choosing to be with his father, confident of the love, the care, the security that is his in those arms.”

“All prayer should be just like that,” wrote Brennan Manning. “As sons and daughters of the new covenant, we are given immediate access to the Father’s lap. We settle down in our Father’s arms and His loving hands. Our minds, our thoughts, our imagination may flit about here and there. We might even fall asleep. But essentially we are choosing to remain for this time intimately with our Father–giving ourselves to Him, receiving His love and care, letting Him enjoy us as He will.

Of course, our inclination usually is to bring to prayer only what we’re comfortable with. But the more we dare to reveal our whole trembling self to Him with all our anxieties, dark desires, fears, sensuality, laziness, and incompetence, the more we’re able to experience His compassionate caring, which is perfect love that will cease our all our fears.”

This is a fitting way to contemplate the complexities of Father’s Day coming up, and to introduce Larry Crabb’s The PAPA Prayer.

It’s a way to pray that brings us into union with [Our Father], so that it is no longer we who live but Christ who lives through us. It’s a way to know God so well that the deepest desire of His heart actually becomes the deepest desire of our, and that frees us to ask God for what we really want with confi dence that He’ll move heaven and earth to grant our requests, because what we want now matches what He wants.

THE PAPA PRAYER looks like this:

Present yourself to God without pretence. Be a real person in the relationship. Tell Him whatever is going on inside you that you can identify.

Attend to how you’re thinking of God. Again, no pretending. Ask yourself, “How am I experiencing God right now?” Is He a vending machine, a frowning father, a distant, cold force? Or is He your glorious strong but intimate Papa?

Purge yourself of anything blocking your relationship with God. Put into words whatever makes you uncomfortable or embarrassed when you’re real in your relationship with Him. How are you thinking more about yourself and your satisfaction than about anyone else, including God and His pleasure?

Approach God as the “first thing” in your life, as your most valuable treasure, the Person you most want to know. Admit that other people and things really do matter more to you right now, but you long to want God so much that every other good thing in your life becomes a “second-thing” desire.

This Relational Prayer, says Crabb, “provides the Spirit with a wide open opportunity to do what He loves most to do, to draw me into the heart and life of the Father and to make me more like the Son.”

May you be drawn into the heart and life of the Father.

About R.H. (Rusty) Foerger

As I enter the third third of life, I am becoming aware of the role of elders today “to enlarge spiritual vision, being devoted to prayer, living in the face of death, as a living curriculum of the Christian life” (Dr. James M. Houston). I am a life long and life wide learner who seeks to: *decipher the enigma of our worth *rescue from the agony of prayerlessness *integrate spiritual friendship.
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4 Responses to The PAPA Prayer

  1. Pingback: Ten Questions to Ask your Dad on Father’s Day | More Enigma Than Dogma

  2. fbenedict says:

    Thank you for writing and sharing this. What a helpful outline for prayer! I love Brennan Manning’s work and quote him often. Here is a similar piece you may appreciate called Prayer of a Fatherless Father:


    • Your words: “These wounds have hitch-hiked across my lifespan, like unwanted passengers, seemingly since the beginning.” It appears that we share more than we would want to. I imagine you draw from the depth of your wound. Have you ever read Nouwen’s “The Wounded Healer.” Profound stuff – especially in terms of the encouragement to minister through our wound, not in spite of it. Thanks so much for sharing. I’m still getting the hang of blogging. And yes, Brennan was a wonderful man. I had the privilege of escorting him when we hosted a conference here some 7 years ago. Grace to you, rusty

      Liked by 1 person

      • fbenedict says:

        Rusty, thanks for sharing. I have not read the book but have referred to myself as a Wounded Healer….so, I guess I need to read that next! So cool that you got to meet Brennan…I loved his book Abba’s Child. Yes, there is definitely a father-wound in me. How amazing is it that we share this yet continue to seek after the Father’s heart? Also, on a related note, we called my dad “Papa”, so this one really hits home.


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