That sentence, from time to time, is our youngest daughter’s default prayer. She uses it at mealtime and she uses it at bedtime. She uses it when prayer is something that stands in the way of something else. She uses it at mealtime when there is something particularly appealing to her appetite. She uses is at bedtime when we have finished reading the Bible and invite her to pray first and she isn’t particularly inclined to.
We have prayed with her at bedtime since the day she came to live with us, when she was two years old. Our habit has been to read from the Bible and then for Robin and I to pray aloud. At some point, fairly early on, maybe when she was three, she decided that she could pray too.
So we let her. We didn’t give her much guidance. She just seemed to follow along the lines of how we prayed with her, thanking God for various things in her life, or the activities of her day, and/or praying for people who were important to her. That could be a set of cousins one night and her grandparents the next.
In the last year we’ve taught her the Lord’s Prayer, which she sometimes uses as a transition in prayer from her turn to one of her parents. And sometimes we, and God, hear the run-on sentence prayer above.
Our children, all of them, are not really ours but God’s, given to us to raise for a time. We can shape them in some ways while they are home and young and less so as they grow and strike out on their own. We feel this most acutely with our youngest, who came to us through God’s unsolicited invitation to adopt, but it is true of them all. That was the perspective that allowed a sense of peace while the oldest was in Iraq with a Marine unit in 2007. Worry could have dominated our emotions then but we were in a better place praying for his well-being and trusting that whatever happened God was always in control.
In Luke 11:1 the disciples have observed Jesus in prayer and then ask,
“Lord, teach is to pray, as John taught his disciples.”
Jesus then proceeds to teach his disciples the Lord’s Prayer. And in a similar vein we are teaching our youngest to pray. We pray with her at meals and at bedtime. We pray with her at times during the day when it seems to be the right thing to do, such as when we realize we have been mean to someone and need to seek forgiveness, or when we hear the hospital helicopter fly over our house. She knows that her mother and I pray together each day and that we also have our own quiet time with God.
While we are not fond of her run-on sentence prayer and are gently trying to teach her that it shows that her heart is not in her prayer, it is not a prayer that is completely without merit. She is learning that God is holy and that God is to be thanked. So we will continue to teach her to pray, knowing that in the process God is still teaching us to pray as well.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.