A few nights ago, I was reminded that prayer with small children is a lot like Chutes and Ladders.
Sometimes, you win. Sometimes, you lose. And sometimes, you take a direct slide right back to start.
But sometimes, you end up where we did that night...
Right off the board and into the land of “Not a chance anyone will ask us to share our technique on how to teach a preschooler to pray.”
It began innocently enough.
Negotiations as to who would be first. All in all, fairly civil. And then, as I was somewhere between the fridge and the dining room table, mayhem ensued.
Underneath the dull roar of Drew’s voice, I heard Grace praying. With every word, her brother’s “I need to be first!” got louder and louder and louder. Not to be outdone, baby sis joined in with intermittent shouts of “I needs to pway!!!!”
Before Grace even reached her “Amen,” with clenched teeth, Drew yammered out something like this, “Bless this food to our body’s use and I am supposed to pray first!!!” The conclusion was equally impressive as he shouted a spit-spewing “The end!!!” in Grace’s face.
Grace, the usual peacemaker, offered to pray again. Not really sure as to what was even happening, I mumbled, “Uh, okay, but can Sophie go first?” Grace waved her on as only a princess amongst the peon public could.
Taking her cue from her big sis, Sophie broke out into her usual, “Mahna, Mahna, Mahna, Mahna...”
And just about the time you expected a merry band of Muppets to add a rousing, “Doo, Doo,” she looked up. Made sure everyone was paying attention. And finished it off with an ear-piercing, “Ameen!”
Just relieved that the noise had ended, I turned to go get the napkins I’d missed when I heard Grace saying the same prayer she’d prayed before but mumbling at warp speed. Miraculously, when she was done, Drew sat back with a certain satisfaction as if to say, “See, I was supposed to be first.”
Just reliving that makes my eye want to twitch.
But although our prayer time landed us into the realm of “what not to do when you pray with small ones or shoot, even big ones,” I realized something that night.
The prayers I utter, particularly those of thanksgiving, often mirror our dinner blessing disaster.
Sometimes, like Grace, its just to get it done. Other times, like Drew, its just so others hear me. And even other times, like Sophie, its mimicry of words that I have uttered before.
Take the Lord’s Prayer, for instance. Our very instruction on how to pray. Words I have known since I was very small...
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV)
I hear them. I read them. I know them.
And yet, somehow I have forgotten to implant the truth of these words in my heart.
A truth that should be spoken in moments of plenty and want and joy and heartache.
Perhaps that is why today, I leave you with my prayer of thanksgiving. One I hope will be rooted in my heart and will live through my hands, even on days when I fall right off the board into the precious land of “Jesus, please help me.”
And so it is, without pretense, facade or further ado, I offer up this humble sister’s heart’s cry:
Papa, how I long to be with you, know you and hold you in the presence of angels and saints and my precious Savior. May my heart remember this longing. May my life speak of your infinite majesty and love. And may Your name on my lips do what it has in this simple offering, where the mere mention of “I am” takes my very breath away.
Papa, I promise to be diligent about the work you have for me on this earth. Please use me up. Take every piece of me for Your holy purpose. And when I find my way Home, let me be singing and shouting and praising Your name, even if my voice has been silenced, my body broken and my mind torn apart. Let me love you that much.
Please give my soul abundant gratitude. Let me not be so caught up in the want of tomorrow that I forget the abundance of today. And should I have to look beyond this day’s limits, let me find comfort as I consider Your faithful care in all my yesterdays.
Forgive me. Forgive me. Forgive me.
I know the sin you’ve washed from me. Remind me daily of the grace and mercy you have poured out on me. Let my forgiveness stand ready to honor the forgiveness you’ve given me time and time again.
Papa, let me be ever mindful of the Enemy. Give me boldness. And mold me into a mighty warrior. When I have the choice to choose the world or choose eternity, empower me to choose You.
You, who embody mercy and joy and hope.
You, who originate peace and love and strength.
You, who found me, and I, who so desperately need you...
Forever and ever and ever.
May my praise never cease even as I whisper,
“Amen. Amen. A thousand times, Amen.”
Sara Cormany guest posts on the first Friday of each month. Sara is mommy to six-year-old Grace, four-year-old Drew and one-year-old Sophie. When she is not wiping noses, changing diapers or chasing her kids, she is a sometimes writer and a sometimes teacher to teenagers. But her most cherished role is that of one who is perfectly held by Jesus. She loves watching Him take the broken, the messy and the seemingly mundane of her everyday and turn it into something beautiful.