When your dad is a pastor, you start praying pretty early, so our kids are used to it.
Although we know our parents taught us, neither my wife nor I remember learning to pray as kids. However, when we started having kids, we knew that we would need to teach them, so with both our daughter and our son, we began by having them repeat after us.
“Dear God…” (repeat)
“Thank you…” (repeat)
“For mommy…” (repeat)
You get the idea. We would go down the list and name off all of the important people and the BIG prayer requests. After a lot of nights praying like this, the idea was to eventually unleash them to pray all on their own.
Our little girl Maddy who is 6 has been praying on her own for as long as I can remember. She’s great at it. Her prayers are music to my ears. She even volunteers to pray. Our son Jude on the other hand…
At three and a half and holding the role of second kid, I think I just forgot to transition Jude from repeated prayers to praying on his own. I mean, we pray a lot, but with an eager older sister and a dad who prays all the time, he just kind of got left behind. Until last night.
Last night we huddled up for bedtime prayers as a family and I asked everyone to pray. My wife and I prayed and then Madelyn. When it came time for Jude to pray, we all expected to hear a few words followed by a request for some help. Instead, we were met with a little boy whose heart was spilling out with gratitude for everything he could remember!
He prayed for the usual things like his family (each of us by name), his church and his teachers. But then he started describing very specific details of his day. He thanked God that he got to go to the grocery store with Mommy and that he didn’t have to go to the car wash with daddy. (He doesn’t like the car wash.) He thanked God that our whole family was healthy. He prayed that we would sleep good. He prayed for his friends. And then he asked God to help him find a stuffed animal that we’ve been searching for at least a week!
These were the things on his little heart. And as he took nearly five minutes, (eyes closed and hands folded), to communicate these things to God, my wife and I just stared at each other, trying to hold back our proud giggles of astonishment. It was the best five minutes of my week!
When Jude prayed, he believed every single word he spoke. He prayed to a God that he is just beginning to meet, with a faith that is fresh and a list of needs that may even seem insignificant to the everyday person. But through all of that, God heard his prayer. God listened through the fragmented sentences and the mispronounced words.
As we finished the night and got ready to tuck our kids in bed, my wife opened Jude’s closet door (for maybe the 20th time that day) and there sat the stuffed animal that Jude had prayed about. The one we’d been looking for everywhere.
I think God loves to hear children pray even more than parents do. And as our Heavenly Father, every time one of us prays, He listens with a proud astonishment. And when we finish, He waits in eager anticipation of the next time we open our mouths. Fragmented sentences and all.