When we need to pray like a child

“Mama, can we pray?” my almost ten year old asked me as I checked on her before heading to bed myself. She had been tucked in two hours earlier, and I was surprised to find her awake.

“Sure baby,” I answered, snuggling myself into her twin bed. “Whatcha need to pray about?”

Her brow was furrowed, worry evident on her lightly freckled face. She chewed her bottom lip before answering, “Awards,” she whispered.

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Her blue eyes looked up at me, hoping that I would understand her one word answer.

I did.

I gave her a sympathetic smile—a smile that conveyed I knew exactly what she was talking about. I pulled her close and kissed her head.

“Do you want me to pray?” I asked.

She shook her head. “I think I need to, but will you pray after me?”

I nodded, wrapping my arms tightly around this little girl who (although she has her moments) can leave me breathless with her faith.

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“Dear Jesus,” she began, “Please help me not to be jealous this year when some of my friends get the special awards. I really want a trophy, but I don’t think I’m gonna get one, and I really don’t want to feel bad or mad or jealous. I just want to be happy for the people that do get them. But it’s so hard.” I opened my eyes to look at her. Her head was bowed, her eyes squeezed shut, her blond hair making a curtain around her serious, pleading face. I could only stare as she continued, “Jesus, help me be able to cheer for my friends and not be sad on award day.” She paused for a moment. “And if it’s ok with You, can I maybe get a trophy someday too?”

She squeezed my hand, informing me it was my turn to pray. But the words wouldn’t come.

“Mama,” she sighed, mild exasperation evident in her tone, “Why are you crying now?” (I may or may not have already cried that evening over a touching episode of The Goldberg’s, a #tbt photo of my babies as babies, and a friend’s emailed prayer request. Apparently, in my daughter’s mind, I had used up my allotted tears for the evening!)

I gave a half-hearted giggle, “Sorry, sweetie,” I said trying to put my thoughts into words, “I guess my tears are because God just used your prayer to teach me something.” I tried to force my emotions into submission.

She sat up against her white headboard. “How did God teach you something from my prayer?”

I thought about telling her how I struggle daily with comparison and jealousy. I thought about telling her that just that day I had received a call from a friend who wanted to share wonderful news, and I had to fight hard to suppress the jealousy that was striving to rear its ugly head, so that I could earnestly rejoice with her. I thought about confessing that every time I see a friend further along than myself in her goals, whether ministry, writing, fitness, home decorating, or financial, I must fight against comparison and jealousy. I debated telling her that praising God for His work in His other children’s lives does not come naturally for me, and is instead a constant willful practice.

But I didn’t.

“Because baby,” I said instead, pushing her wheat-colored hair behind her ear, “Awards and trophies come in all shapes and sizes for grown-ups. And grown-ups get jealous sometimes too.” Her eyes widened with this information. “Your prayer is something I need to remember to pray more often, because you’re right. God does want us to celebrate with others.” She snuggled back down under her dragonfly quilt. “And besides,” I added with a smile of realization, “Jesus is way better than a trophy, right?!”

Her sweet face tilted toward the right as she studied me. “Mama,” she said, reaching up to tuck my hair behind my ear, “Do you want me to pray for you?” she offered.

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I nodded.

“Jesus,” she began again, “Please help mommy not to be jealous or sad if she doesn’t get a trophy, or whatever it is that grown-ups get. Help her to be happy for her friends who do, and help us both to see You as better than a trophy anyway. In Your Name, amen.”

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Amen, indeed my wise little prayer warrior! (Now if I could only get you to put your clothes in the hamper!!!)

(The video is several years old, but it captures my girl perfectly! It was taken when she was in kindergarten. When her amazing teacher taught the entire class to recite Psalm 100!)

Much love,

Jen

2 Replies to “When we need to pray like a child”

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