I don’t think there is ANYTHING cuter than listening to a child pray. We try to stifle giggles, as I don’t ever want them to be put off their own unique style of talking to their daddy in heaven, but my word it’s difficult to contain the laughter sometimes. You got to hear the things these kids come up with. Husband and I cover our faces and sneak looks at each other and sometimes I just cannot be serious and I let a small giggle out and have to quickly convert it into a coughing fit because coughing they understand, laughing during praying is, however, severely frowned upon.
But this is nothing new. I remember praying as a child with my brothers and sister and parents. Getting the giggles was contagious and happened often. One of us would start and before long everyone would be hosing themselves, tears streaming down our faces – over nothing in particular. But sometimes it’s just difficult to be serious all the time, isn’t it?
Hannah’s latest prayers include asking Jesus to please make Rocky stop crying early in the morning because she needs to get her sleep in so that she doesn’t feel sleepy in the day because she absolutely does not want to have a nap in the day. Her words, not mine.
Liam prays for his nieces and nephews. We’re like WHO are your nieces and nephews? He says “but you say that?”
They pray for rain – not so that the trees and flowers can grow – but because they want to wear takkies tomorrow and if the sun is shining mommy is going to make us wear our slops.
They DO NOT want their aunty or granny to pray EVER because “they pray for tooooo long” apparently.
Hannah prays for Kanyiso at school because he is so naughty, and he needs help to be a good listener when teacher talks. Again, her words not mine.
They pray for each other’s sores and bumps and bruises, which is fine. But when a person wants to mention every single blue mark, mosquito bite, that time when I bite my tongue and it was sore, that time mommy smacked me and it was sore. And then ask for HEALING in JESUS NAME! Woooooo, I HOSE myself.
And then of course the mentioning of every single person we know. From the oldest to the youngest. Look, I’m happy to just group people. Parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, friends and so on. Jesus knows, OK. But to mention everyone by name – while the clock is ticking way past bedtime hour. Sometimes it’s funny and sometimes I need to reign that in and yell AMEN just to get them to STOP ALREADY.
What about asking for help to be a good boy or girl. No, not because it is what we are called to do, no. They ask for help to be good children so that God can give them a prize. A prize? Now I’m not sure what’s been whispered to them in their dreams, but I’m pretty sure God is not like me who hands out prizes (read: sweets) for good behaviour.
And how they pray with a hidden agenda: please forgive Hannah for that time today when she didn’t want to share her toys with me. Loosely translated, what he is actually trying to say is: WINK WINK NUDGE NUDGE YOU ARE SELFISH HANNAH AND YA, NOW I’M TELLING ON YOU TO GOD.
One cannot be serious when listening to a small child pray!
I love how they are uninhibited in their requests. I love how they truly trust that God will make it alright. Talk about coming boldly before the Throne!!
Anyway, I was reading this excerpt from Paul Miller, A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World, (full article here)
It sums it up PERFECTLY! It’s long but READ IT!
Jesus wants us to be without pretense when we come to him in prayer. Instead, we often try to be something we aren’t. We begin by concentrating on God, but almost immediately our minds wander off in a dozen different directions. The problems of the day push out our well-intentioned resolve to be spiritual. We give ourselves a spiritual kick in the pants and try again, but life crowds out prayer. We know that prayer isn’t supposed to be like this, so we give up in despair. We might as well get something done.
What’s the problem? We’re trying to be spiritual, to get it right. We know we don’t need to clean up our act in order to become a Christian, but when it comes to praying, we forget that. We, like adults, try to fix ourselves up. In contrast, Jesus wants us to come to him like little children, just as we are.
The difficulty of coming just as we are is that we are messy. And prayer makes it worse. When we slow down to pray, we are immediately confronted with how unspiritual we are, with how difficult it is to concentrate on God. We don’t know how bad we are until we try to be good. Nothing exposes our selfishness and spiritual powerlessness like prayer.
In contrast, little children never get frozen by their selfishness. Like the disciples, they come just as they are, totally self-absorbed. They seldom get it right. As parents or friends, we know all that. In fact, we are delighted (most of the time!) to find out what is on their little hearts. We don’t scold them for being self-absorbed or fearful. That is just who they are.
This isn’t just a random observation about how parents respond to little children. This is the gospel, the welcoming heart of God. God also cheers when we come to him with our wobbling, unsteady prayers. Jesus does not say, “Come to me, all you who have learned how to concentrate in prayer, whose minds no longer wander, and I will give you rest.” No, Jesus opens his arms to his needy children and says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NASB). The criteria for coming to Jesus is weariness. Come overwhelmed with life. Come with your wandering mind. Come messy.
What does it feel like to be weary? You have trouble concentrating. The problems of the day are like claws in your brain. You feel pummeled by life.
What does heavy-laden feel like? Same thing. You have so many problems you don’t even know where to start. You can’t do life on your own anymore. Jesus wants you to come to him that way! Your weariness drives you to him.
Don’t try to get the prayer right; just tell God where you are and what’s on your mind. That’s what little children do. They come as they are, runny noses and all. Like the disciples, they just say what is on their minds.
We know that to become a Christian we shouldn’t try to fix ourselves up, but when it comes to praying we completely forget that. We’ll sing the old gospel hymn, “Just as I Am,” but when it comes to praying, we don’t come just as we are. We try, like adults, to fix ourselves up.
Private, personal prayer is one of the last great bastions of legalism. In order to pray like a child, you might need to unlearn the non-personal, non-real praying that you’ve been taught
So instead of being paralyzed by who you are, begin with who you are. That’s how the gospel works. God begins with you. It’s a little scary because you are messed up.
Become like the little children Jesus surrounded himself with. When Nathanael first hears about Jesus, he says the first thing that comes to his mind: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). It is the pure, uncensored Nathanael. When Jesus greets Nathanael, you can almost see Jesus smiling when he says, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” (1:47). Jesus ignores the fact that Nathanael has judged Jesus’ entire family and friends in Nazareth. He simply enjoys that Nathanael is real, without guile, a man who doesn’t pretend. Jesus seems to miss the sin and see a person.
It is classic Jesus. He loves real people.
God would much rather deal with the real thing. Jesus said that he came for sinners, for messed-up people who keep messing up (see Luke 15:1-2). Come dirty.