Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How then, should we pray?

Most adults, particularly those who have been Christians their entire lives, pretty much figure they have praying down-pat.  Maybe some are more formal, starting out with a "Dear heavenly Father", while other people are more casual.  For some reason, I think almost every 20-something girl leading prayer in a group starts off with, "Dear Jesus, we just come to you right now..."

But you know who really has prayer figured out?  Pre-schoolers.  On any given Sunday, my children's church kids range in age from 2 to 5.  Lately, they've all gotten more comfortable, and they all really want to pray.

Of course, it's normally, "Oh, I want to pray!" followed by 30 seconds of throat-clearing, and then something disjointed and totally unrelated to the lesson.  Pretty soon, everyone in the room wants a chance to get to say a prayer.

And I let them.  It may take up a few extra minutes we really don't have, but I'm never going to tell a child, "No, we don't have time for you to pray right now."

Plus, the way they pray is awesome.  They have no real preconceptions of what prayer should sound like, so everything they say to God is honest and direct.  (Truthfully, their unwavering bluntness is one of the many reasons I prefer small children to adults.  That, and my love of silly songs and dances.  And puppets.  Seriously, kids are so cool.)

There's one little girl who, though younger than a lot of the other kids, is always one of the first to volunteer to pray over our snack.  She has a very high, sweet little voice, so we usually can't hear whatever it is she's saying.  But she's so cute and earnest while she prays, I can never interrupt her.  So I just peek my eyes open every few seconds to see if she's still praying.

The oldest kid in the class, a very serious (and therefore, unintentionally hilarious) little boy often wants to pray, as well.  He often follows the basic outline of the prayer from our lesson plan, which is a speak-and-response, and generally goes along these lines:

Dear Jesus
(Dear Jesus)
Thank you for the Bible story
(Thank you for the Bible story)

However, this past Sunday he ad-libbed a bit.  We had been talking about Jesus being friends with his disciples, and how he's our friend, too.  Which prompted this sweet little man to add:

Thank you for being our friend.
Please be everyone else's friend too.
Let everyone in the world be saved.
Amen.

Now, that is childlike faith.  No adult would be trusting and naive enough to ask for something that big, and that selfless.  That level of optimism was crushed out of us long ago.

And I know, I know, there's no bigger cliche than, "I was supposed to be teaching these kids, but they were the ones teaching me."  But in this case, it's honestly true.  I wish I could pray like that.  Just ask for something huge and impossible because I knew, 100%, that God is capable of anything I could imagine to ask for.

I ask for stupid crap, like, "God, please don't let me have to have any medications or treatment I can't afford."  A child would ask, "God, please make me better."  It's like the most crippling aspect of adulthood is not our age or our responsibilities, but the death of our imaginations.

Of course, not all of the kids pray for something amazing in its depth and profundity.  One of the little girls, for some reason (maybe something she watched or heard about), was really scared about house fires this past Sunday.  So when she prayed, she said, "Dear Jesus, please blow out all the fires in the houses and open the doors of the houses so the fires can go out.  Amen."

Oh my goodness, I love those weird kids.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

children are so pure and innocent, that's why they are closer to God,and that's why when i was a kid, my mother always asks me to pray whenever something's wrong, or when there's something to celebrate about because God listens to me more intimately. :)

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