It’s been said that the prayers of children are some of the most honest, and truthful prayers around. I’d back that. Children have no filter and while us adults have learnt to filter (or not filter) everything, it seems that children don’t find merit in it at all. Adults pretend, even when they’re praying. Maybe actually most of the time when they’re praying. In groups. By themselves. Whenever.
Praying can be a pretense to assure the people around you you’re doing well, even if you’re really not.
Praying can be trying to convince God of something He knows you’re lying about.
Praying can be a way of trying to prove your worth.
Praying can be a selfish way to indulge your own desires and bring attention to yourself. Playing the victor or the victim.
It’s an area I struggle in. Praying doesn’t come naturally to me. I struggle to find things to say, I struggle to pray things I know I should want to pray. I feel kinda lame saying things I want to say, even when praying by myself.
No-one ever said that prayers need to be long. No-one ever said that prayers need to be formal. No-ever ever said that prayers need to be rehearsed.
I just got schooled in this tonight – by my five year old.
Tonight, as I was unpacking some dishes in the kitchen, I was half listening to my babies and their daddy having their prayer time. Most of the time, their prayers sound the same, which is totally ok -“thank you Jesus for my Lego and that I could play at school today with my friends” or “thank you Jesus for my mom and dad and Noah my big brother” – but tonight, I heard them singing Jesus Loves Me together. As they finished, their dad turned to them and encouraged them to start praying and my oldest, Mr Noah, had a one line prayer. All he said was:
“Thank you Jesus for having me.”
That was it.
Even if his little 5 year old self doesn’t get the full weight of his prayer, I started to tear up. In that statement, He taught me so much. Noah just bowed his head and thanked God for His grace, in his five year old way. Undeserving, unconditional love of the Saviour for him. Accepting him as he was – a sinful, fallen-short-of-His glory little guy. (Ok, he’s five so I’m guessing he didn’t read into this as much as I have ~ but I’m just taking his prayer and expanding on it a tad.)
Isn’t that what’s most important? Without that, the Gospel isn’t anything at all. Gods unmerited grace shown in Him sending His son for us, is why we get to pray in the first place. A lesson in the powerful simplicity a prayer can be. Noah doesn’t know the power of his prayer and that’s the beauty of it. He bows his head and says something that comes naturally to him when he thinks about talking to Jesus. Today, it was just that one line and it was enough.
Pious prayers mean nothing. It doesn’t matter how you say it or how long it takes you to get it out. Even if your prayer is a one liner, but you’re being honest and transparent with the One that’s listening, you’re doing better than pretending to say the right things and meaning none of it.
I’m preaching mostly to myself here. I think tomorrow night, I’ll join the ones who seem to have this right and have figured out just how to talk honestly to God. Think it’s about time I took some notes on this from the smallest, youngest members of my family. My kids.
“Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But the power of prayer is in the One who hears it, and not in the one who says it.”*
*Adapted from a quote by Max Lucado.