What is your prayer life like? Get a chance to hear a unique conversation between brothers who have wrestled with their prayer lives for years – what does it mean to live a SPIRIT led life starting with prayer? An eternal perspective can change the way you pray!
Bio: Ken Crabb is the youngest of Dr. Larry Crabb’s two sons. He has been married for 21 years and has three daughters. Ken and his family live in North Carolina.
Kep Crabb: Welcome everyone to Relational Spirituality, the podcast of Larger Story. I’m your host today, Kep Crabb. Our topic this last quarter of the year, as we get ready to roll into the advent season, as we’re beginning this last quarter, we’re going to be talking and looking at the ideas, the themes, and the thoughts covered in the book, The Papa Prayer. If you don’t have a copy of that, make sure you go to Largerstory.com today and get yourself a copy. We still have several left, but this book was written in 2006. It’s written by Dr. Larry Crabb, my dad, who basically wrote this book out of confusion and sometimes frustration with his own prayer life.
He begins the book with nine questions. I’m just going to read those to you real quickly. He divides those into three categories. The first three questions I think we all could probably answer a hundred percent yes on, but let me just read you these questions. He says, the first question is, have you ever asked for something from God and didn’t receive it? I think we could all probably say yes. Have you ever prayed for guidance, especially in a difficult relationship that never came? Have you ever really needed to hear God’s voice and then tried to believe you did, even though you weren’t really sure?
The next three questions are a little different. He says, do you sometimes feel that God is turning a deaf ear to your most desperate prayer requests? Have you ever prayed for comfort yet ended up feeling more empty and alone after you’ve prayed? Has praying for strength to overcome temptation ever left you feeling just as weak and the temptation feeling just as strong, maybe even a little stronger?
The last three questions he has are a little bit deeper. This is really the essence of the book as you start to dive into it. Do you know God well enough to enjoy His company the same way you would enjoy being with a family member, like a brother or a close friend? Do you want to know God better and enjoy Him more than you know and enjoy anyone else? These are hard questions. The last question, did you connect with God in such a way that enables you to hear His voice and to know He’s right there with you?
As Dad went on to write this book, The Papa Prayer, the word Papa really stands for something in the book. As we begin to introduce this book today, let me just tell you what the word Papa means. The first P of the word Papa, the first letter P stands for present. What Dad says is to present yourself to God with no pretense. Be a real person in the relationship. Tell Him whatever’s going on inside you that you can identify. That’s the first P of Papa. The second letter is the letter A, and that letter stands for the word attend. Attend to how you’re thinking of God. And again, you can’t pretend when you’re doing this. You have to be honest. 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 gloriously strong but intimate Papa? The next letter is the letter P that stands for the word purge. Purge yourself of anything blocking your relationship with God, put into words whatever makes you uncomfortable or embarrassed. When you are real in your relationship with Him, how are you thinking more about yourself and your satisfaction than about anyone else’s, including God and His pleasure? And the last letter of the word Papa is the letter A. So the first letter is present, P. A, attend. P, Purge. And now the last letter is A for approach. Approach God as the first thing in your life, as your most valuable treasure, the person who you most want to know. Admit that other people and things really do matter more right now. You long to want God so much that every other thing in your life becomes a second thing. That’s really where this book starts from.
As we dive into this book, I’m joined today by one of my closest confidants, and my closest friend, who also happens to be my brother. Many of you may see him and think that he’s my older brother, but he’s actually my younger brother. I’d like to welcome Ken Crabb to the show now. Ken, thanks for joining us today. How are you doing brother?
Ken Crabb: I am doing well. I don’t know who would think I’m older.
Kep Crabb: I like the fact that you have the background that lets you know what’s going on there. There’s two reasons why I wanted you to have you on today. The first one is just because you haven’t had a chance to do an episode with me yet. ‘m so excited to have this because this is how you and I talk most of the time. But the second reason is really because after Dad had passed away, you made a comment that has stuck with me, but you said it really did impact or affect and change your prayer life. Can you unpack that a little bit?
Ken Crabb: Yeah, I did. I remember saying that to you. It’s funny. One thing that our father always said is, there’s three ways that we draw near to God. Number one is through His Word. Number two is through community and fellowship with other believers. And number three is prayer. Those are the three things. And very often our community feels like it’s missing us. So often our prayer life seems anemic. remember him giving a sermon on this one time. He said, if you’re climbing up a wet rocky cliff wall, which is life, and you’re slipping, the guaranteed ledge you always have is God’s Word.
It’s funny, I’m part of the leadership team with a very large men’s Bible study and routinely the guys say, can we do something on prayer? Because my prayer life doesn’t feel real. It just isn’t nurturing me in the way I think it should. And I can resonate with that. When I taught prayer in that group, I intentionally did Daryl Johnson’s wonderful book, 57 Words That Change The World on the Lord’s prayer. I pray the Lord’s prayer, I would guess 15 to 20 times a day. I do that purely because I know Jesus instructed us how to pray. I know I’m doing something right when I pray in the Lord’s prayer. I can’t miss. It’s just a great starting point.
For me, what happened when my dad died, when our dad died, I knew he was with Jesus right away. I started thinking about heaven. I started approaching the throne with a different visual. And then for some reason, probably six to eight weeks after our dad had died, I started calling God the Father, Dad in my prayer life. I could put a face to that. It just felt so intimate to picture God the Father, knowing my dad’s somewhere in that throne room. Go ahead and pick up revelation four if you want to see what he’s up to right now. I started calling God, Dad. My brother and I both had such a wonderful relationship with our father. He was not perfect, but really close, and just a wonderful dad. Nobody imaged God the Father and Jesus Christ to me more than my dad.
Having that unbelievable influence as our spiritual mentor, who also happened to be our biological father, just really changed my prayer life.
I’d love to tell you guys two and a half years later that there’ve been no lulls, but there have been. It was a pretty big spiritual high when that happened. I probably got three or four months from really feeling, just very much abiding in Jesus Christ. Just by the simple thing of calling God the Father, Dad really helped that connection and it faded. I needed more time in the Word. I think I have a hard time praying for longer than three to five minutes without my Bible open on my lap. It’s really hard just to focus and do that. So if I know I’m going to spend some significant time in prayer, especially if I’m trying to figure out what the heck it means to listen, I don’t know how to do that without the Bible open. It just keeps me focused. I can think about my family and friends.
It was a huge thing. It’s not a little trick. It didn’t change my whole prayer life forever, but it was helpful. It was a big deal. And it was really the first time in my life that my prayer life felt like it was a vibrant part of my spiritual journey. Unfortunately I was 50 years old the first time my prayer life felt like a vibrant part of my spiritual journey.
Kep Crabb: You hit on something when you just said it there, and it really just caught my ear because you’re now picturing Dad with Jesus. What I love to say is that Dad is no longer living with any faith. He’s no longer living with any hope. All he’s living with is just an abundance of love and seeing Jesus. There’s no faith or hope that he’s going to see Jesus because he’s seeing Jesus
Ken Crabb: His faith is sight. And that’s not faith.
Kep Crabb: The impact that has had on how you prayed has an eternal perspective and you talk about the ebbs and flows or the ups and downs of that kind of journey, because I believe I’ve had that too.
But the one thing that seems aside from scripture – which is always there, that ledge, like you said, that you can rest on – the fact that keeps eternity on the forefront of your mind, the fact that our dad now is in heaven. I often say, what is he doing right now? He’s doing something because time still exists at whatever that means in heaven. I don’t even know, it’s beyond whatever our minds can wrap around. But to have that eternal mindset, that eternal perspective, that has been what has changed me in the last definitely a few years since Pop passed away. I think that’s where you sustain that, because I have that hope of heaven is what’s really pushing me now and driving me.
Ken Crabb: I just reread Waiting for Heaven – I know this is on Papa Prayer, so I’m not going to confuse books, but I just reread Waiting. I had read it before Dad died and then I read it after. The impact of that book, knowing he was in heaven as I read it, I was brought to tears multiple times. I had a hard time seeing the conclusion. It was just awesome. But The Papa Prayer, the other thing I think that when I was starting to call Him Dad, that whole idea of purging. I think repentance and prayer is a lost art too. I think if we learn to repent continually, frankly, it’s just… My Christian life, when I feel as though I’m abiding with Jesus and really walking with Jesus Christ, it is a posture of continual repentance. That’s the posture of my heart. That’s so huge. When my prayer life feels stagnant, a lot of times I can take it back to a lack of repentance. That’s why that purge before you attend to the throne is so important. When I’m thinking about Dad in the throne room in Revelations chapter four, which is one of the wildest chapters in the Bible, because it’s happening right now in the present and it’s absolutely happening in the future. It’s all those things. It transcends time. I’m thinking about the solemn nature of approaching God in prayer. I know as a kid, Jesus is our friend and that’s great. I want kids to understand that, but Jesus is also sovereign Lord and Savior. I don’t want to go into that when I think about my prayer life now. I don’t want to have that casual approach.
Kep Crabb: Again, that’s such a huge point that Dad made such an emphasis on in this book, the whole notion of self love of ourself and how self gets in the way. He even says in the book, giving priority to our relationship with God may not produce the maximum satisfaction in our souls that we legitimately desire, because we’re still so wound up in self and the distinction between, self and spirit, because that’s the battle, right? Dad jumps into it in about the middle of the book. I can’t remember exactly where, but in the middle of The Papa Prayer, he talks about, what does it mean to pray in the Spirit? He talks about centering prayer and some of those kinds of things.
Again, the whole notion of letting the Spirit rule us and guide us and drive us is something that you and I’ve been chatting about now for forever. But it’s become something that’s so pivotal and so foundational. And I think it begins in your prayer life.
Ken Crabb: I think it does. For anybody that is having a chance to watch it, I don’t want to give you the illusion that my prayer life is some amazing thing. But there are moments, there are tastes to where my prayer life is good, and it just requires obedience, commitment, and time. Our Bible study last week was looking at the very first missionary trip where Paul and Barnabas were launched from Antioch. It occurred to me, the church got together and they were praying and fasting at the start of, I think it’s Acts chapter 13. They were praying and fasting and it appears that they were doing that for days or even weeks before the Holy Spirit spoke. I said to all these guys in my men’s Bible study, is our life too noisy to hear the still small voice of God? Who is living a contemplative life anymore with the internet and media and all this other stuff?
I think that the enemy of prayer is noise, is busyness, is not centering your heart and I fall victim to that as much as anybody else. I really want to take that time every morning. As soon as my feet hit the side of the bed, I say, I know I’m God’s man, right? That’s true no matter how my day goes, but am I a man of God? That’s when my prayer life starts every morning. If I don’t have that – and I’m probably not 30 for 30, but I bet you I’m 29 out of 30 – on the mornings I miss I feel it. I feel like something’s missing.
Kep Crabb: There’s something really important about starting your day with prayer. You talked about repentance and so much of that purging.
Ken Crabb: See, Mere Christianity talks about us becoming little Christ’s and the battle of our flesh every morning. The challenge for the Christian is they have to wake up and realize they’re an alien. We’re not part of this world. We want to have outposts. We’re an outpost. I want my home to be an outpost in enemy territory. That’s what all of our homes are as Christian homes.
The other thing that I think Dad expressed in the book, but thinking about attending, is where Thomas Chalmers had a quote, “the expulsive power of a new affection.” I’ve always loved that quote because as you’re falling more in love with God and you’re attending and really trying to think about His magnificence, you’re blown away. You fall more deeply in love. I learned last week, Albert Einstein was a religious man. I did not know that, I came across this in some research, but he had a fellow scientist that he told he didn’t really like evangelical preaching in America because it downplayed the magnificence of God. He said, the Milky Way light travels at 5.76 trillion miles per year and it takes a hundred thousand years to get across the Milky Way. And God’s named all those stars. The preaching just doesn’t capture that.
This was from John Piper, actually. And John Piper said to a bunch of pastors, may that never be said of us. I think that’s that huge part in attending, understanding you’re attending to the sovereign creator and with His word has a 576, 000 trillion miles long universe. That’s just crazy.
Kep Crabb: Yeah. You really hit on so many things there that I think are so important in respect to just staying in constant prayer. When your feet hit the floor in the morning, that’s when prayer begins.
Ken Crabb: I haven’t read Papa Prayer for about six months, but I think he does get into C.S. Lewis and Screwtape Letters talks about the idea of posture and prayer. Wormwood, the junior demon tempter, is being instructed by his uncle’s screwtape to have us humans not believe posture matters in prayer, right? Don’t bow down. Don’t get on your knees. Don’t let them do that because they’re animals. If they have a worshipful posture, it will actually impact their heart. So posture really does matter when we pray. Praying lying in bed at night is not as powerful for me when I’m on my knees.
Kep Crabb: You hit on it too, you almost have to be on your knees when you start to be aware of the magnitude of God and what’s really going on, what Einstein was talking about, we look at God as being, like Dad said in the beginning of the book, is He just a vending machine?
Is He just a frowning father who’s disappointed in us or a cold force who’s there to hand out justice when it needs to be handed out? Or is He really our Papa, an intimate relationship with God the Father, because we know how important fathers are. So many people don’t have a father, but we’ve got a heavenly father that fortunately, our earthly father gave us an example of, but there’s a heavenly father available for people that don’t have the father that they’re called to have because they do have that father in Jesus and in God the Father.
Ken Crabb: They can still be that father. I understand having a role model is huge. It. But wanting to be the father that our dad was, could other people that did not have a great father be that father? The answer is absolutely, because that’s what prayer is so important about.
You have a heavenly father. It’s as real as calling Him Dad. And that can just be huge. Rather than looking back on what you missed out on and how your father failed you, be the father that you wanted, knowing that you’re fully supported and have the Holy Spirit to do that.
Kep Crabb: That’s the key. That is the absolute key. How do you live in the rhythm and the guidance following the Holy Spirit?
Ken Crabb: One of the things struck me and I’m as guilty of it. When we take prayer requests, how many of you guys and gals out there hear prayer requests? It’s usually about someone’s job or someone’s health. If you pick up the prayers of the Bible, just read the Pauline prayers. Here he is, being beaten, imprisoned and all that other stuff. He doesn’t mention any of that. He is just praying that they grow in the knowledge and love and grace of Jesus Christ. It’s an amazing thing how our prayers are so different from the prayers of the Bible. That’s why I really try to pray the prayers of the Bible to keep my selfish interest out. I want God’s interest going forward, because without His Word, I don’t really even know how to pray.
Kep Crabb: That’s why Dad calls this a different way to pray and gives us an opportunity. I think the nice thing about this book is – I was reviewing it the last few days knowing I was doing this, sorry I didn’t give you a whole lot of heads up on this, but thanks. I was going to do it by myself and I thought, no, I want to have Kenny join me on this and I think that’ll be fun – the interesting piece is how this notion of presenting yourself and attending and purging and approaching, opens up doors to your prayer life in a way that you didn’t expect.
You might be running through what you would consider an A, B, C formula, = or whatever the word is there. Formulaic, a formula, formulaic and it’s what Dad was totally against, but this is not a formula. This is a way to just open the door to say where to start. Because as you mentioned before, and I think it’s so true, so many people, if not all of us, struggle with our prayer life.
Ken Crabb: So the disciples spent three and a half years with Jesus. The only thing they ever asked him to teach them was how to pray because Jesus went off and prayed. If you look at that, Jesus went off and prayed for eight hours at a time. And so the disciples, they didn’t say, how do we take care of people? They saw that. How do we love others? How do we do ministry? He exemplified that always, but they weren’t with Him when He was praying very often. They said, Lord, teach us to pray. They never asked Him to teach them anything else. Even the disciples were going, we don’t know how to pray like you. We really want to start praying better. How do you do that?
One other quick thing from Daryl Johnson’s book 57 Words That Change The World. I did not know that, but, the Lord’s Prayer has six stanzas and you guys are all familiar with it, but our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Those are in a command. It’s like you’re telling God what must happen. They were an imperative. It’s just a really bold prayer. John Calvin wrote eight different books on the Lord’s Prayer. It’s six stanzas, 57 words, but for some reason he needed eight theses to get through it all because there is so much to that. I’ve done that with the Lord’s prayer and Papa Prayer thinking about, before I will get to saying “our father”, where am I right now?
Dad would say your red dot, and there’s no point about being dishonest. That’s just silly. You’re with God. He knows everything. So just be honest. I’m having a terrible time. I’m a train wreck. I’m being tempted by this and feeling like I want to just be selfish and yell at my wife today and pick fights with people or whatever, just be that honest to start and get ready to pray, present honestly, this is where I am. Approach, attend. Who is God? He is the creator of a 576,000 trillion mile universe, and for some reason loves you so much He sent his son to die for us. That’s the attend portion, purge, get rid of what’s in your life that’s blocking. And not only are you blocking and not only do I block my relationship with God, but when my relationship with God is blocked, it’s impossible for me to love others. The only love I can even provide comes from the Holy Spirit. So unless I’m purging, I can’t even love my wife and kids. That’s how important repentance is. It’s just that big of a deal. I think it’s a lost art. And Satan loves that, right? Keep that over you. You feel shame, so you don’t want to approach. And that’s silly.
Kep Crabb: This has been fantastic, bro. I hope that you people have enjoyed the conversation I’ve had with my little brother on prayer. If you haven’t gotten a copy of The Papa Prayer, please go to Largerstory.com and get one of your copies today. We’ll send it out to you. This next quarter, we’re going to be talking about prayer and the themes from this book and really all about that kind of thing. How can we improve our prayer life? How can we improve our relationship with the Father through our prayer life? What does that look like? And so continue to join us every Tuesday through the end of the year as we continue to talk to you about Relational Spirituality.
Thanks for joining us today.