After a weeklong church building mission trip in Illinois, the little kids and I were following my dad Saturday night to drop off the bus that we had used from the trip. From the back seat of the van, Sean, who is 3, pipes up and asks me,
"Mom, what are those words that we say before we say Aaaa-men."
"A prayer," I ask.
"Yes, but what are the words?" he asked.
I proceeded to explain to him that we can say anything we want to God. Our prayers can be aloud or in our mind, and we can talk to God just as we talk to any person. He always hears us. Sean, the ever literalist, then began a monologue on the back seat.
"We're riding in the van. Aaaa-men."
"There are trees outside the window. Aaaa-men."
"My name is Sean. Aaaa-men."
It was so precious to see him take an interest in prayer, and to hear him question what prayer is all about. The awakenings of a ripened soul. I so hope that one day, I'll be with him when he says, "Jesus, forgive me and live in my heart. Aaaa-men."
I think so often I take prayer, and its power, for granted. We start out with our rote prayers of "Now I lay me down to sleep..." and "God is great, God is good." We call out the words though our childlike minds may not grasp the concept of an intangible God.
Then we move on to simple blessings and requests. I remember when my son Jared was about 5, we had to evacuate our home for Hurricane Dennis. My parents came to get us because I was very pregnant and could not drive, and my husband had to stay behind. I called home to see how preparations for the storm were going and related to my husband that Jared had prayed for all of his toys to be safe. It was such a simple, self-centered request -- typical of a five-year-old. It seemed at the time, that everything Jared said he had prayed for had come to pass, so Stephen put one of his toys in each room of the house so that Jared's request would not keep just his room and the playroom safe, but the entire house. And mercifully, the house was fine.
And then, as we grow in Christ, we begin to have deep conversations with him. I remember my pregnancies with my first two babies were filled with me talking to them conversing about what the world would be like and how I was excited for them to be born. But when my third, Emma, came along, I was fresh off two miscarriages and was told that there was something wrong with her. For a time, we did not know exactly what her problems would be, but we knew that things did not look right on her ultrasound. And then the doctors told me she would have Down's Syndrome. As I would rub my tummy and try to talk to her, I was incapable of carrying on my one-sided conversation. Instead, I would bathe her in prayer. I would beg and plead that God would make her well, that she would not have to suffer, and that she would have the chance to have a healthy life. In His mercy, she was born perfectly well.
All of my prayers have not been so amicably answered. There have been times when I have prayed for God's intervention only to find that God's solution and my solution were not the same. Not so long ago, I prayed that God would make changes in our family that would allow us to make family a priority and that would pull us together as a unit. Then He moved us from Florida back to my hometown in Mississippi. And I said, "Really, God? This is what you want?" I had to accept that this is the place He wants us in this season of our lives. I cannot say that I am overjoyed to be here (I miss my Floridian life), but there have been things that have happened, resolutions, healed relationships, understanding, and an end to long-held hostilities that have given me peace.
And really, I think that peace is the ultimate request that I can petition from God. I may not be in control of a situation (which is tough because I am a control freak) or be able to change any of the forces around me. But I can ask for peace. And amazingly (or not), when this is my petition, I can almost feel the peace run through my veins and my apprehension will go away. I have to be accepting to His will instead of my own plans. Interestingly enough, if many of my prayers had been answered "my way" with my self-centered intentions in place, things around me would be a hugomongous mess.
Last night, Stephen and I watched The Passion of Christ. I know the movie is several years old, but this was the first opportunity I have had to watch it. As I watched the portrayal of Jesus in Gethsemane praying, I was struck by the thought of how crucial prayer is. Even Jesus prayed. Why would any lowly, earthly being assume that we can make it through life without asking for God's blessings on the things we do. In Matthew 26:39, Jesus petitioned, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." His prayer was not answered with relief from His destiny. He had to be arrested; He had to be beaten; He had to be massacred on a cross like a common thief. It wasn't what His earthly body wanted, but praise God, He succumbed to God's will and endured that pain and torment that we may have everlasting life when we trust in Him.
"Be joyful always; pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." I Thessalonians 5:17