When children offer their first spontaneous prayers, it has to be one of the sweetest (and funniest) experiences ever.
Recently, our youngest grandchild became really excited about doing the prayer before meals. She started off with “Thank you, thank you, thank you” before starting her list. In a muffled voice, she would begin a series of requests. Most were unintelligible, but occasionally we clearly heard “permission” for the receipt of presents. She also made bold statements about God living anywhere he wants… “you can build a house,” etc.. Some at the table grew weary waiting to eat and vocally hurried her along. Eventually, with prompting, she would thank God for the food and we would finally eat.
However comical these early attempts at prayer were to us, I think God was extremely pleased. In thinking about her prayers, I recognized lessons I could learn… from the mouth of a child!
- Prayer to her was simply conversation – just talking about anything and everything. No topic was off-limits, even though some things seemed to be selfish to us. In time, God will refine her wants and needs as she continues to form a relationship with him. What impressed me was the easy and excited way she purely talked to Him. I hope she never relies on ‘canned” prayers as she grows and learns more about prayer. I want the same – simple conversational prayers.
- She always began each prayer with gratitude, expressing thanks not once, but usually three times. I often plunge in with requests, especially when a crisis hits, without recognizing how blessed I already am – even in and through hard times. I’m looking for more balanced contentment evidenced in prayer.
- She recognized the enormousness of God. He could live anywhere He wants. I pray that as she continues to come to know God, she realizes the best place He can live is in her heart. It is a fervent prayer that all my grandchildren come to know the saving grace of God and decide to follow Him wholeheartedly.
- Yes, she asked for “presents,” but, don’t others do likewise even though our requests differ. God remains the best place to go with our needs and wants, trusting Him to provide in wisdom. And that is the crux of the issue – He alone knows what is best. Like my granddaughter, I should take every request (needs AND wants) to God and TRUST his wisdom in providing or withholding.
I believe God was pleased with these prayers because he loves communicating with us. I know He would prefer messy prayers than stilted programmed efforts. Jesus endorsed this line of reasoning in recognizing the value of childlike faith—especially in prayer.
Luke 18 records Jesus’ teaching about prayer. In the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8), we are encouraged to be persistent in prayer – not perfect in phrasing. Luke follows with another parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14). This tale contrasted pride and humility. The Pharisee relied on his own goodness, while the tax collector rightly realized he depended on God. The next passage in Luke builds on this theme with a story of Jesus welcoming children. When the disciples tried to keep children away from Jesus, he rebuked them stating: whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Luke 18:17, ESV) “Entering” the kingdom requires childlike faith: wholehearted trust, awareness of dependence (on God), openness, expecting and excited.
We often witness these qualities in the prayers of children.
We, as adults, should listen and learn.