One of the things that I find fascinating is portraits of donors praying. Donors would commission these artworks depicting a variety of religious scenes that they had a particular devotion to. And then, they would insert themselves into the scene on their knees and praying.
For example, take a look at this one:
The donor who commissioned this painting, who by now is unknown, is portrayed kneeling to the sitting Virgin and Child, his hands clasped together in prayer. The Virgin Mary looks at Jesus while Jesus extends His right hand in blessing to the man while holding some cherries in His other hand, as a reminder of the fruits of Heaven.
And it just hits me hard: this is a time before selfies or cameras or anything like that. Only the rich could commission these sorts of paintings, and they often took a long time to complete. This might be the only visual rendering of this man. Ever. And now, 500 years later after this was made, the identity of the man who commissioned this painting has long since been forgotten. The only reason people who we can recognize in this picture is the Virgin and Jesus.
The only reason why this painting was preserved for as long as it has been is because of Jesus.
And yet, what we do know about this man is that he thought that it was so important to be thought of as devout that he commissioned an artwork of him in prayer. And now that is how he will forever be known, anonymous as he is.
Of course, this begs the question:
Why do we pray?
It’s a good question and worth wondering about! After all, God knows everything. He knows what we need. He knows what would be best for us. So, why does He want us to pray to Him with our petitions and desires, if He already knows them? Can’t He just do what we need without us getting on our knees and asking Him? After all, He is all-knowing and all-loving. Why would He make us beg?
And as I pondered this question, I couldn’t help but think of my own experience as a parent.
You see, I have two toddlers. And a baby too, but let me talk about the toddlers now! My toddlers are simple people with simple needs and desires who often have tantrums when they are disappointed. Nine times out of ten, I know what they want when they throw fits and can help them easily. And if they have a reasonable desire, I want to help them!
But! I want them to ask nicely. I want them to say please, if they can, or motion their needs with a smile if they still can’t use words. It’s a matter of respect! I don’t just want to be their vending machine that they throw tantrums at when I don’t work: I want to be their mom.
I don’t just desire to merely take care of them: I want to build a relationship with them. I don’t just want to provide things to them: I want to serve them out of love. I am their mom! And I want them to learn to love me and see me as another person.
God is our father. Yes, He knows what you need. Yes, He will always love you. Yes, He desires to serve you. But, He also desires your love. He desires to be recognized. So don’t take Him for granted. Go to Him out of love.
And always remember to say thank you to Jesus.