Monday, February 18, 2008

An Object Lesson in Prayer

Last week, on a discussion list, a friend observed that sometimes you might find yourself praying for something that is opposite of what someone else wants. For instance, like when I want it to just stop snowing and warm up...when in reality, that is probably the last thing that the farmers want (and also, that is the last thing I will really want if a mild Winter means we'll have a mosquito season like last Summer).

Another person responded saying that's why we should pray the Lord's Prayer and other liturgical prayers like The Litany. When you look at those, they don't have the aspect of "me, me, me" or "I want." She called it treating prayer like it was a genie in a bottle (and especially with "The Prayer of Jabez" and so many other health and wealth gospel messages out there, I definitely see her point).

She made a very astute observation. The Lord's Prayer and prayers like The Litany direct our prayers beyond ourselves. They lead us to consider God's will and to trust in it, to look to the needs of our brethren, and also point out God's gifts to us, and focus on the things that we don't always consider in our "unscripted" prayers.

Someone else pointed out that they also do not dictate to God what the answer should be, but trust in His judgement. Also, a very astute observation.

I shared though, that I had once heard a very good sermon by Pastor Petersen where he encouraged us to go to God with our wants, no matter how small, how numerous, and how seemingly petty. God is our Father. We want to hear what is in our children's hearts, and God wants to hear what is in ours as well. He wants us to trust Him. He also doesn't want us to screen our prayers as to whether they are proper. It's okay to pray about the weather, or winning the Little League game, or having my team go to the Super Bowl.

We take our requests to God, He decides what to do with it, just like when our kids ask us to go to the zoo or for a new toy. And telling Him how we'd like it resolved isn't the worst thing either. God may have a completely different way of dealing with the request (and often does), and as we mature in faith, we trust more, and maybe we get better at that, but sometimes, we just know what we want, and we share it. Deciding what to take to God is kind of another way of not trusting in Him, because we are deciding what is worthy of Him and what is not.

When Jesus said to suffer not the little children to come unto Him, I am very sure that if those children knew they were sitting on the lap of God, they would ask to see a miracle, or for that toy they really wanted. But Jesus wanted them to come to Him anyway. And then He told us to be like them.

In the midst of typing all of this out, my son was doing his lessons in the other room, and had started to lose his patience with his work. I asked him what he had eaten, and he said he had eaten an apple. I have been trying to teach him that having some protein keeps him full longer and keeps his blood sugar even so that he can think better and keep his mood tolerable. I told him to grab some protein and kept typing. I heard him groan a few minutes later and heard him snap at his sister. I had him come to me. He said he couldn't find anything to eat. I told him that rather than just sitting there miserable and making Maggie miserable as well, he should come to me and ask for help. He was right, we were a little low on protein...but we did have eggs.

I asked "Why don't you fix an egg?"

I saw his jaw clench "Do I have to clean the pan?" There was attitude in that voice.

My response was to get irritated. It was a common rule that if you cook something, you clean it up, and it hadn't been followed much lately. So I, much more calmly than I felt, told him that I thought he needed a few minutes alone, and he stormed off to his bedroom.

And then I thought about it. He was beyond coping. I told him to come to me for help, and then I sent him away because I was mad at the manner in which he asked. That is not what I was typing, and that was not what God would do for me (though the cool-off period was probably good for both of us.). He certainly has cared for me, even when my manner was not the best. Chris was asking me for help with controlling his emotions and his metabolism, because he was not able to do it himself at that point in time. He needed me...and there would be other times for teaching him to prevent these moments, which in all fairness are much rarer than they used to be. So I got up and made eggs (for all of us), and I cleaned the pan. And it was a much better afternoon.

Sometimes it is funny that at the very moment when I start thinking I am delving into something wise, God shows me my sin, teaches me something, and humbles me. At least He is gentle and kind


AmusedMomma said...

This is a great wrap-up of that conversation. I'm going to save this for those times when this question about prayer comes up with my kiddos.

SCHS said...

Excellent Perspective. Isn't it so amazing to see how God uses our children to teach us so much. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts. Thanks for sharing them.