Praying Like a Child

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by Cheri Ryan

Now that I’ve been a parent for five years, I’ve discovered that one of the biggest challenges I have faced is feeling like I don’t have the answers to… well, basically anything. And so, I have approached many of the challenges I’ve faced as a parent through prayer. Not only have I grown in my own personal prayer time, but I have found myself growing in the process of praying with my children. Over the last year, as my girls have grown in their ability to understand God and prayer, I have had them take more of a lead role in what, and how, we should be praying during our morning devotion time. This has been an eye-opening experience for me.

Morning prayers go something like this: I ask my three-year-old what she would like to pray, and every day she rattles off the same exact list of people – and our dog – and we ask the Lord to bless them together. Then I ask my five-year-old what she would like to pray, and her answers often completely take me off guard. She often asks for things that I can’t help thinking are just never going to happen.

I vividly remember thinking about a particular request of hers one morning, which seemed just impossible to me, and feeling the work of the Spirit within me; convicting me regarding the cynicism of my own heart in automatically dismissing her heart’s desires. The request she made was not selfish or materialistic but was kind and loving, if a bit unrealistic for reasons she can’t understand. Because I am ever the realist, I just think: Nope. Impossible. Not for this family.

Since that morning, I think of how my heart approaches prayer, and I find myself reminded of 1 John 5:14, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” And I’ve been so convicted about how my young daughter approaches the Lord with confidence and trust and is waiting for these big things to come into our lives. How many times do I lack confidence in prayer? How often do I filter the Spirit out of my own heart and mind because I am so cynical and judge what God wants for my life based on worldly standards rather than biblical standards? Deciding what seems possible, rather than remembering that nothing is impossible with God?

Furthermore, the way my daughter reaches out to God in prayer has been such a reminder to me that the point isn’t getting an ‘answer’ to the prayer, but rather to know God, to know He hears us, to be present with Him. Part of that knowing is trusting his word; that whatever we ask, whatever the cries of our heart may be, the Lord hears his people. He hears us. And so, as a parent who is learning every day to share a love of God and his word with my children, I have found the Spirit of God is revealing so much of who God is to me, THROUGH my children, just as much as I am showing Him to them. Jesus Himself taught his disciples, by giving them the example of faith like a child, in Matthew 18:2-4, “And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'”

I love how Corrie Ten Boom said, “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” Daily morning prayer with my daughters, and how my older daughter lays out her heart’s true and unfiltered desires before the Lord, has been such a good reminder to me to approach prayer as my steering wheel – guiding my path – rather than presenting to God those things that I’m pretty sure He’d already approve of anyway.

So, let me encourage you to not only approach devotions as a time to teach your children but also as an opportunity to learn from them and see the world, and God, through their eyes. I hope that it will be as much of an encouragement to you as it has been to me.

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