What young children may lack in eloquence, they make up for in simplicity, vulnerability, rawness and realness.
Posted in , Jun 24, 2016
I was raised in a Christian home. I have been a follower of Jesus for more than four decades. I have pastored four churches. And I am still a novice at prayer.
I am such a novice, in fact, that I my grandchildren are teaching me how to pray. I have five wonderful, amazing, perfect grandchildren, and I love few things more than hearing their prayers.
What they may sometimes lack in eloquence they make up for in simplicity, vulnerability, rawness and realness. Those may not be widely accepted liturgical terms, but they sure do enrich a person’s prayers.
In fact, my grandchildren Miles, Mia, Calleigh, Ryder and Avery bless me and teach me the following ways to pray like a child:
1) Be present.
My oldest grandchild, Miles, just turned nine, and my youngest, Avery, is not yet two. But they all teach me repeatedly that much of praying is about simply being present. Most of their prayers are far more “in the moment” than mine tend to be.
Whatever they are feeling at the time is what comes out in their prayers, from being excited (or disappointed) by the food on their plate or the noise they just heard or the apparent earliness of their bedtime.
Sure, sometimes prayers are a strategy to avoid going to sleep or make the vegetables in front of them disappear, but that is often what “being present” is about.
2) Just come out with it.
I love that my grandkids haven’t learned all the “airs” adults sometimes use when praying. They just come right out with what’s on their minds and hearts.
If they wish a brother would go away, they say so. If they think their Crappaw (yes, that’s what they call me, what of it?) has bad breath, they mention that, too. On an almost daily basis, they remind me that the best prayers are honest and blunt and to the point.
3) Review the day.
Sometimes my grandkids’ prayers don’t sound at all like prayers, but more like a review of their day, along the lines of “God, we went to the park today, and I like the park because the park is fun. I didn’t like falling and scraping my knee, though. That was fun.”
It’s not exactly the Magnificat, but I’m guessing God enjoys those prayers more than most of the ones I pray.
4) Hope for good things.
In addition to reviewing the most recent events of their lives, my grandkids often express their hopes for the future, too. Often they do it in the most affecting ways: “Jesus, I hope we get to go back to Disney World soon because Disney World was fun, and I got to meet Goofy.”
I want to go back soon, too, but why don’t I mention it in prayer as they do?
5) Declare love.
Almost always, at some point in their prayers, my grandkids will express their love to God and their love for others: “Jesus, I love you. I love Mimi. I love Crappaw. I love Gigi and Pops and Mommy and Daddy.”
Maybe someday they will change their ways and pray “bless them” prayers. But I hope not. I don’t express my love for God and others enough in my praying, and my grandchildren often remind me that I should. And I want to. I don’t say “I love you” enough.
I think it’s amazing that prayer is so big and beautiful and yet a tiny child can not only do it but also teach it. It makes me hopeful that I may someday get good at it.