Tuesday, April 30, 2024

The Day my Toddler Reminded me to Pray

 By: Rebekah Hargraves

Photo Courtesy Of: David Beale

"Pray without ceasing." ~1 Thessalonians 5:17

As parents, our tendency is oftentimes to spend so much time thinking about and fretting over all the lessons and truths we need to impart to our children. After all, we want them to be obedient, respectful, loving, kind, compassionate, patient, gracious, honoring people and firm graspers, believers, and doers of truth. However, in the midst of all this focus on what we need to teach them, I think we sometimes loose sight of something very valuable. And that is that God created parenthood to teach us a lot! Our children are daily used by God to sanctify us, to teach us more about His ways and His heart for us as His children, and to remind us of what is most important in life. 

Such was the case for me several years back. 

From the time Anna, our now 9 year old, was very little, my husband Owen has done a wonderful job of introducing her to the concept of prayer, teaching her to hold our hands and to sit quietly each evening as he leads us in prayer before dinner. She caught on to this amazingly quickly - even as a toddler, whenever Owen would reach out for her hand, she knew exactly what was going on and would, in turn, reach out for my hand so we could all pray together.

Unfortunately, while Owen has been faithful to daily lead us in prayer before dinner, I have not always been so good about remembering to do the same with Anna (and now our son, James, as well) before lunch when it is just us at home. Not only that, but unfortunately, I all too often don’t even take the time to actually sit down at the table with the kids at lunch time to have a nice, leisurely lunch with them. Too often, I’m too distracted thinking about my to-do list and trying to get things done while the kids eat lunch and I eat on the move. But, by God’s grace, there was a moment several years ago that the Lord brings back to mind on occasion, when I was intentional about preparing our lunch, setting it on the table, and sitting down beside my sweet girl (who was then 19 months old). 

Yet again, however, my “busyness” and quickness of doing things that day caused me to just start eating, without any thought to what I should have done to start our time over our meal together. But the next thing I knew, my then 19 month old daughter impacted me in a powerful way and taught me two valuable lessons through one simple little gesture. 

While I had been focused on beginning to eat, Anna interestingly had not yet taken one single bite and the next thing I knew, had reached over and taken my hand. Surprised, I looked down to see her staring up at me with anticipation. I knew exactly what she was wanting. “Do you want to pray, Anna?”, I asked her. “Uh huh!”, she nodded excitedly in return, her whole face lit up. In that moment, my sweet little girl, at just a year and a half, taught me some really special lessons I desperately needed - and still do need to this day, seven years later. 

For one thing, she saw prayer as something we should just do before we eat. And you know what? She was right! And yet I had allowed my own interests, fast-paced busyness, to-dos, and concerns crowd out what was most important in that moment – acknowledging God and placing Him first and modeling to my daughter what that looked like. Instead, she did those very things for me. She modeled for me that which I should have been modeling for her. And that touched me deeply.

Secondly, after that initial prayer time with her and a few minutes into our lunch time, she reached for my hand yet again! “Anna, are you wanting to pray again?”  “Uh huh!”  More excited nodding, her eyes shining. This continued three or four more times over the course of our lunch, each time with me being careful to take a moment and think of something else to pray for with my daughter. Because believe you me – if my girl wants to pray, pray is what we will do! She modeled for me in those moments such a love for, enjoyment of, and excitement for prayer, that it blew me away! The last thing I wanted to do was to douse or discourage that excitement, so each time, I came up with yet another thing to pray to God about, at my daughter’s insistence and encouragement. 

How I thank God for the example my daughter was to me that afternoon and for the valuable lessons she taught me! How often we as adults simply get too busy or too distracted to pray. How often we fail to “pray without ceasing ( 1 Thess. 5:17). How often we find ourselves viewing prayer as boring, too time-consuming, or a worthless endeavor. The Lord knew I and my prayer life needed that precious example my daughter afforded me that day of yearning to pray, seeing prayer as something exciting and enjoyable, and having the desire to pray again and again. 

So, today, I want to slow down. I want to savor the moment and make the most of it. I want to look my sweet children in the eyes and learn all I can from them. After all, the very Kingdom of God itself belongs to those who are as little children ( Matthew 19:14, Luke 18:16). 

Do I as a Mom have a legitimate and huge responsibility to teach my daughter important life lessons? Of course! But I need to also get off my high horse of thinking I have all the answers and possess all the wisdom and knowledge and look to her and see what lessons of childlike faith the Lord would have me learn through her. Never underestimate the rich source of wisdom and insight your little dear ones can be to you! Don’t miss out on the lessons. Don’t turn a blind eye to what the Lord would have you learn through your little children. For they truly are better examples of faith, trust, unconditional love, right priorities, kindness, and a whole host of other wonderful characteristics than we often give them credit for! 

Reflection Questions: 

1) How have your children made a spiritual impact on your heart and life? 

2) What important lesson has one of your children illustrated for you lately? 

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