Friday, March 13, 2015

What My 5 Year Old Accidentally Taught Me About Prayer

I love my 5 year old daughter. She is full of energy, loves to be silly, and loves to speak her mind. In fact, she loves to speak her mind so much, she rarely waits until the right time. My wife often enjoys having conversations with other adults after church. For a homeschool mom, that’s a precious time of adult conversation! But, without fail, our daughter will walk up, oblivious to the conversation at hand, and say “Mommy” at least 342 times until she gets her attention. Those calls of “Mommy” continue in the face of: “Just a second sweetie,” “I’m talking right now,” “Don’t interrupt,” “Wait your turn,” and on and on. But, she’s relentless until she says what she needs to say. I’m sure many of you have had similar experiences! That brings me to this past Sunday.
Each Sunday our church gathers at 9:45 am to pray together. We’re a church plant renting a school, so we meet in a classroom - the art room to be exact - for prayer. There are four large tables that we set up in a square and gather around to pray. We invite children (5 and up) to join us because we believe there’s value in them gathering with us, listening, learning how to pray, seeing God’s people pray together, and even praying out loud with us. So, my 5 year old, 8 year old, and 10 year old girls join me at the table each Sunday. (My wife graciously watches the younger children most Sundays.)  

I strategically place my 5 year old next to me so I can try to keep her from distracting others. She, and the other children, do a great job most Sundays. But, this past Sunday she needed my attention. As the pastor, I spend two minutes or so reading a passage from the Bible about prayer, and then I make a few brief comments before we pray. Well, that’s when she needed me. I’m was trying to talk to our people about prayer and she kept tapping me on the shoulder saying, “Daddy.” The first time I stopped, leaned over, and said, “I can’t talk right now.” The next time I didn’t want to interrupt what I was saying so I just kept talking and held my index finger up - you know, the international sign for “wait just a minute.” I think my oldest daughter sitting on the other side of her eventually got her to stop calling my name while I finished up.
But, after that, while we were praying, I was struck with the reality of my limited human capacity as a pastor and father compared to how God listens to his children. I couldn’t listen to her, respond to her, and share God’s Word with God’s people all at the same time. I’m limited. I can only have my attention and my words going in one direction at any given time. But, that’s not the case with our loving Father. He never holds up an index finger saying, “You’re going to have to wait just a minute.”
He listens to the prayers of a billion, while working in the hearts of millions, and upholding the universe. All at the same time. And the attention he gives isn’t scattered but fully present. He listens to me, and all who come to him in prayer, just as intently as an adult squatting down to give a child his or her full attention. God’s busy, he has a universe to rule and care for, but he’s never too busy for you or me.
That’s what the gospel teaches us. When Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” The “all things” includes attention to our prayers. God didn’t give the life of Jesus, adopt us as his children, and then move on to other things. We belong to him, he is infinitely capable of listening, and he’ll never tell us he doesn’t have time or attention to give us. So, go to him - always. Or as Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.”

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