“I want to pray!”
The request was too sincere and heartfelt to turn down. It came after the Bible story while I was teaching FBC’s preschoolers, and before I closed us in prayer, I let one of the four-year-old boys pray. “Dear Jesus, thank you for Christmas,” he started, then his voice trailed off into mumbles. Our story wasn’t about Christmas; it was about God feeding the Israelites in the desert. One of the three-year-old boys begged to go next, and he began, “Dear God, I hope you have a great day today…” More unintelligible mumbling.
While many would smile (me included) at the prayers of preschoolers, the sermon from Mike Fabarez on Sunday on Romans 8:26-27 made me question how different my own prayer life is from that of the two boys in Sunday school. When life hurts, what do my prayers reveal about my theology? Of course, I have more depth and perspective than three- and four-year-olds…right?
Maybe not. In fact, while my preschoolers often pray for others in their lives (mom, dad, grandma, the dog, etc.), my prayers can be quite self-centered and were even more so a few years ago. I suffered from what Mike called “toddler theology,” wanting out of all difficult situations and praying only that they would end and nothing else.
I learned the error of my ways through a common means, a situation that was not solved quickly or the way I wanted. Through studying God’s Word and learning more about His character, I began to see just how large my “prayer blind spots” were.
And then there was the deeper, heart question: did I really want God’s will, or just my way? Months and months of praying for the same situation helped me move from simply saying, “yet not my will but YOURS be done,” to actually meaning those words with my whole heart.
Thankfully, the Spirit of God intercedes according to God’s will, even when we are blind to it. This truth has changed the way I pray both for myself and for others. Of course, I will pray for pain to cease, but when it doesn’t, I pray for God’s strength to walk faithfully, bring Him glory through it and view it as a sanctifying blessing to make me or fellow believers more like His Son. And for unbelievers, I pray that the pain brings them to a saving knowledge of Him.
Perhaps when life hurts, we can take a cue from one of FBC’s preschoolers and say, “Thank you for Christmas. Thank you that You sent Your Son to earth to pay the penalty for my sins, and that Christ’s life, death and resurrection lets me see that my ‘momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison…’ (2 Corinthians 4:17). Amen.”