Learning to Pray
Andy hates school. It’s not just that the work is sometimes too hard. It’s the friendships—or lack thereof. He looks forward to Tuesdays, when his grandma picks him up. He can’t wait to climb into her car and escape the crowded bus and the name-calling. It’s not that his grandma solves all his problems. But when he’s with her—riding in her car, listening to her sing with the radio, or at home, hearing her laugh as he beats her at Sorry!—Andy always feels good, knowing he’s with someone who loves him.
Prayer is like that, too. It brings us into the presence of the God who loves us unconditionally. When our kids are in a lonely lunchroom or enduring taunts and teasing, they need to know that Christ is there with them. He sees all their pain and hears their desires, hopes, and fears.
Jesus isn’t a genie who grants us three wishes and solves all our problems. God’s plan is too big for that, and somehow it includes the hard times as well as the good times. But Jesus does promise never to leave us or forsake us, and sensing that kind of closeness in prayer can be a powerful thing for kids (and adults) who need to feel accepted, loved, and cared for.
With prayer, that cozy closeness can sometimes get lost, leaving little more than a routine—a quick appeal before a meal, a list of requests before we rest. These scheduled prayer times are valuable; they cement in our minds the importance of prayer, and they offer our kids a pattern that will stick. But we have to help them see these as jumping points that plunge them into a deeper connection with God, into a real friendship that allows them to talk with God in a way that is natural to them, expressing their own thoughts and feelings.
Unexpected, one-on-one moments have offered some of the most meaningful prayer times I’ve shared with kids. Sometimes the occasion is joyful: “I hoped someone would invite me to play at their house and it happened!” We quickly, genuinely thank God for that bit of grace. Or, a worry about an uncle needing surgery may be casually mentioned. That’s the perfect moment to stop and ask for God’s guiding hand on the doctors.
Our kids take cues from us that nothing is too small or too great for God. God cares about everything that affects us, and he’s there to be the strong tower that we run to, the God of all comfort that we cling to, and the good Shepherd that leads us forward. Not only on Tuesdays, but every day of the week.
By Pat Knoester