“An interviewer once asked Edith Schaeffer, author and wife of evangelist and philosopher Francis Schaeffer, “Who is the greatest Christian woman alive today?” She replied, “We don’t know her name. She is dying of cancer somewhere in a hospital in India.” I’m talking about that woman. Underneath her obedient life is a sense of helplessness. It has become part of her very nature…almost like breathing. Why? Because she is weak. She feels her restless heart, her tendency to compare herself with others. She is shocked at how jealousy can well up in her. She notices how easily the world gets its hooks into her. In short, she distrusts herself. When she looks at other people, she sees the same struggles. The world, the flesh, and the Devil are too much for her. The result? Her heart cries out to God in prayer. She needs Jesus…
…Less mature Christians have little need to pray. When they look at their hearts (which they rarely do), they seldom see jealousy. They are barely aware of their impatience. Instead, they are frustrated by all the slow people they keep running into. Less mature Christians are quick to give advice. There is no complexity to their worlds because the answers are simple–“just do what i say, and your life will be easier.”
Surprisingly, mature Christians feel less mature on the inside. When they hear Jesus say, “Apart from me you can do nothing (Jn. 15:5), they nod in agreement. They reflect on all the things they’ve done without Jesus, which have become nothing. Mature Christians are keenly aware that they can’t raise their kids. It’s a no-brainer. Even if they are perfect parents, they still can’t get inside their kids’ hearts. That’s why strong Christians pray more.
John of Landsburg, a sixteenth-century Catholic monk, summarized this well in his classic A Letter from Jesus Christ. He imagined Jesus speaking personally to us:
“I know those moods when you sit there utterly alone, pining, eaten up with unhappiness, in a pure state of grief. You don’t move towards me but desperately imagine that everything you have ever done has been utterly lost and forgotten. This near-despair and self-pity are actually a form of pride. What you think was a state of absolute security from which you’ve fallen was really trusting too much in your own strength and ability…what really ails you is that things simply haven’t happened as you expected and wanted. In fact I don’t want you to rely on your own strength and abilities and plans, but to distrust them and to distrust yourself, and to trust me and no one and nothing else. As long as you rely entirely on yourself, you are bound to come to grief. You still have a most important lesson to learn: your own strength will no more help you to stand upright than propping yourself on a broken reed. You must not despair of me. You may hope and trust in me absolutely. My mercy is infinite.”
-A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller