I just read a Facebook post in which a grandmother tells a story about her grandson saying Grace before eating at a restaurant. He includes a request for ice cream. Another diner whispers a loud criticism, saying kids these days don't know how to pray properly. The story ends with the grandson giving his ice cream to that nasty diner. It's a good story but I want to expand upon it.
|Child At Prayer, Eastman Johnson, circa 1873|
We're told that we should "give it all to God" and rely solely on the Lord for our needs. How do you do that? I know how I do but it's taken me a long time to get here and I've got a long ways to go yet. When we tell children not to say "selfish" prayers, what we're really saying is that God doesn't care what you want. We're teaching children to withhold the desires of their hearts. And that is NOT what the Lord wants!
Several years ago, our dog Sasha ran off at the tail-end of a very severe thunderstorm. The storm knocked out our power and we'd just found out it spawned a tornado that tore through the center of the state, from Springfield to Charlton, MA. Scary stuff, especially for a 5 year old who's beloved pet has now run off into the still stormy night. My husband and I drove around looking for Sasha but it was too dark and we were running out of gas. I went home and told my kids the best thing to do now was pray.
Two hours later, Sasha returned. Unhurt but filthy, and she's never gone off that long ever since. I think perhaps she scared herself. When we had her back safely inside, my 5 year old son told me, "I prayed that God would bring Sasha home and He did!" I believe that is the moment that he truly accepted and believed that God cares, even about little boys and wandering dogs.
The next day I told a friend this story and the response was, "God isn't a magician, you know." I was very disappointed by this response. Here was someone who's faith I respect telling me, in essence, that it was wrong for my son to pray for God to save our dog. WHAT?? So why do we pray for sick people? Why do we pray when disaster strikes? I had a hard time holding back my anger, though I'm glad I did because friendship is important and sometimes even smart friends don't say things quite the way they meant.
|Praying Hands by Albrecht Dürer|
After a bit, maybe a few weeks maybe a few years, just depends on the individual, your prayers start to change. Your faith grows stronger. No, you don't get everything you prayed for in the past but you start to see how what you want isn't always what's best, for you or others. If you're a parent, you can compare raising a child to growing your faith. Your kids may beg and plead for more candy but you know too much isn't a good thing. God knows this kind of stuff about us, too. As your faith matures, you start asking things like, "Lord, please let me have a good day but most of all, please help me do what you want." We pray to be able to accept and follow the Lord's will.
That kind of faith doesn't come with accepting Jesus as your Savior. Faith, as is often stated, is like a seed. It gets planted and then needs to be nourished. John 15:2 states, "He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." Our prayers begin one way, our faith grows and the Lord prunes, and our prayers mature. But we'll always have more growing to do!
God is not a magician but sometimes prayer can work in ways our feeble little minds consider magical!