Tag Archives: religion

Lessons learned from kids who pray

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. 

On babies and church and service

I’ve been volunteering in the children’s ministry at our church for the last two years. Up until last weekend, I used to serve at the check-in counter which meant I would get the children registered before the service started and then I would go into the adult service myself. I loved working on the check-in counter, you become familiar with the parents and the kids and it’s good fun and it’s great to be involved in the church the size of ours because you get to know people.

A few weeks back I decided I wanted to become more involved. After meeting with the children’s church pastor, I signed up to volunteer in one of the classes. I decided on the baby class for a few reasons:

  1. I couldn’t be in either Liam or Hannah’s class because that would just be complicated.
  2. I didn’t want to work with the older children because I’m not ready for sass yet.
  3. I love little babies. I really do. I thought this would be great to spend time with the babas and then happily send them home with their parents. Get my little-baby hit, so to speak.

This Saturday I was in a classroom with 9 babies between the ages of 12 – 24 months, and then on Sunday in a classroom with 12 babies. And let me tell you, it was tough. It’s not a babysitting service, it is a full on church service with praise and worship, offering time, lesson time via a puppet show, snack time and free play. Some babies are so agreeable, they do just as they are told, they sing and dance along, they listen so attentively during the puppet show and they are just too precious. These are usually the children who have been attending for a while and are used to the routine. Some of them are brand new but are just children who adapt easily. Then there are other babies. OOH SHAME. These babies are hectic. They are not used to being away from their mommies and daddies. Some scream from beginning to end. Some scream for a little while, then get wrapped up in what’s going on around them and forget to scream. Then they remember and scream some more. And some more. Oh my bleeding ears! Then we get those who are not genuinely upset but just like the sound of their own voices. I would NEVER say that to dear Johnny’s parents, but I’ve had two kids, I can suss out the play-cry and the real-cry from a mile away. Besides THAT, each baby needs a diaper change at some point during the service and each baby gets a small container with dry Oatees and we all know the mess that even DRY FOODS create with small chlidren. Oi vey…

Can I just say that I changed about 10 nappies this weekend of children who do not even belong to me! Give me my noddy badge right now!!!

It was tiring, no it was EXHAUSTING running after them and making sure they were doing what they were supposed to be doing. It was extremely weird for me to love on someone else’s kid – a kid I’ve never met before and who I may never see again. BUT it was surprisingly a nice sort of weird. And when I managed to calm down the screamers, and they’d look up at me with that look that says “you aren’t too bad yourself” as only a little baby can, it was so very heartwarming. And so rewarding. My arm is aching as I write this from carrying a little boy called Landon who was so blinking HEAVY! A real big boy! And my back was sore from all the lifting of thrown toys and uppies of all the babies and sitting on the floor with them! And I know for next week that I must not wear any jewellery or leave my hair loose – things I’d forgotten about since my own baby days!

I don’t know how preschool teachers do it. Honestly. It is hard work guys, go and hug your children’s teachers when you pick your kids up this afternoon!

I am so glad I chose this class, I am so glad I get to spend just an hour and 15 minutes with these little people each week and that I am helping to plant that tiny seed that will hopefully lead to their salvation one day.

It feels good to be of service.

The one about Mandela…

As I am sure with most South Africans, today is a day when we all reflect on the past, on how far we’ve come as a country and we can’t help but honour and respect a great man on his birthday, regardless of what your political views are. Please humour me for a moment as I turn all motherly on you. When I became a mother, I became an emotional basket case, I cry for everything, I feel emotional pain for people who are suffering and my heart has genuinely softened – I don’t know that this is a good thing, but since becoming a mother, I really feel like my heart has been physically taken out of my chest and sewn onto my sleeve. This is not a rare phenomenon, most moms I speak to will tell you the same thing; you instinctively become more caring, more loving, more sympathetic and empathetic and I believe that God made us this way so that we wouldn’t kill our offspring in the middle of the night when they are crying for the 4th consecutive hour. ANYWAY, I digress.

I grew up in a Coloured family, in a Coloured community, I attended a Coloured primary school and went to church which was filled with mainly Coloured people. I can’t say that Apartheid directly affected me at all, my memory holds no recollection of having been hard done by, or having suffered because of the colour of my skin. But as I grew up, and listened to stories from the past, and MORE so when I became a mother – the stories told by my father and his father, began to resonate with me, I became painfully aware of how horrendous Apartheid was. That people were tortured, brutalized and killed because of the way they looked, is so inhumane and so unfair. That we were forced to go to certain schools, or swim in certain beaches or shop at certain places, blows my mind away. That a man would go to prison for 27 years and come out smiling and become the first Black democratic president of South Africa, is unfathomable. That we have come so far as a nation who has endured so much, is a miracle.

My dad would attend underground meetings, one of the incidents that still brings on the goosebumps, is when they decided to stand up to the authorities and march to the beaches and throw themselves into the water of what was the so called “White” beach. My dad says that as they approached the water, a massive swarm of policemen with batons came forward to attack and as one body the group continued to run towards the water and in an act of unified defiance and standing up for something they truly believed in, dunked themselves into the water. Can you imagine! Another incident which in hindsight is darkly humourous; my grandfather was admitted to hospital, but being fair in complexion he was admitted to the White ward. When my grandmother had learned of his admission she visited the hospital and could not find her husband anywhere because she was only permitted into the Coloured ward. When the mishap was cleared up, I am sure they burned those sheets which my grandfather had laid on! Ha!

Out of my three siblings, I was the only one to attend what was then referred to as a Model C high school, I didn’t give this much thought until my Dad explained that I was the only child that was politically ALLOWED to, as my brothers and sisters were still “Apartheid” kids – well kind of – and during their years of education, we were forced to attend a “House of Representatives” school (for Coloured people), and Indians attended “House of Delegates” schools. I clearly remember those grey or pale green rulers which were actually printed with the words “House of Representatives” which formed part of a stationery in primary school! I also remember referring to the beaches by race group… coloured beach… I think this is now Sunkist beach – which still is one of the nicest beaches to swim in, in Durban! I have cousins who are considered White, because they looked white and passed the pencil test, and were so classified in their ID books. Same family, same blood line, but they are White because they looked white at the time. They married White people and a whole new shoot of the family was created. Amazing when you think about it!

I was a child protected by my parents and family, prior to 1994, so I can’t say that I formed part of any struggle. As a teenager and young adult, yes I noticed that we were not all equal, but I can’t say that I have been severely affected by a racist crime. Even now, I have good friends across race, religious and cultural lines. But as an adult and a parent, I realize the struggle, I realize the sacrifices that were made by our leaders and by our own parents to get to where we are. I realize that Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom was anything but a “walk” – it was an arduous and onerous journey, one he did not have to take, filled with much pain and grief all because his human heart was so convicted that we all deserved to live a fair and free life.

And for this, I am proud to be a South African. Happy birthday Mr Mandela.