Daniel spent the morning systematically searching for the memory stick he’d lost – it has 4 years of writing and his latest animations on it. He has backups of the writing but not the animations. He’s searched the car, his desk, his bedroom, he’s phoned the library to see if it fell out of his pocket there, he’s searched the laundry to see if it is either still in his pants or maybe even gone through the wash. It is nowhere. A little voice says – pray about it – if he was little you would have prayed about it. I struggled with that idea – I really didn’t want to pray about it – not with him.
So I prayed – by myself, just quietly as I went by my business. But the thought that I was reluctant to both pray with Daniel or even prompt him to pray stuck with me. How could this be! What was going on?
I didn’t want to pray with him because I didn’t want to answer the questions about God not answering.
Have you ever had that thought?
I teach my kids to pray, to trust in God, but sometimes his answer is no, sometimes it doesn’t seem as if he cares or even hears. How do I teach my kids to trust him, to rely on him to believe in him, if he doesn’t answer their heart felt little cries? How do I explain answers like wait, or even worse – no?
No, I’m not going to help you find your memory stick.
No, I’m not going to take away your pain.
No, I’m not going to let that friend stay in town.
Adults struggle with the answers to prayer – how am I going to teach my kids through that. Simple answer – just don’t pray. Pray about the things you know are going to happen.
I did this once – and to my shame – my little 6yo saw straight through it. Josh wanted a trampoline – real bad. It was coming up to Christmas time, so we said – pray about it. So he did. And what-do-you-know – he got a trampoline for Christmas. Wow! Answered prayer!! But he saw through it. Even when we tried to paint it as an answered prayer, he knew that we bought it because we knew he wanted it!
Do we have right thinking about prayer?
The problem lays with wrong thinking about prayer, wrong thinking about God. Prayer isn’t a conduit for getting what we want – it is a conduit for God getting what he wants! God wants to have a relationship with us, a relationship where we talk to him, where we trust him, were we live our life with him. God also wants us to be like Jesus. I find it interesting that the fruit (the repercussions) of walking with the Spirit isn’t material possessions, success or fame – the fruit of walking in the Spirit, walking with Jesus, in fellowship with God is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23). God’s direction to us has been to love him, and to love others. These are the things that God wants, and when we pray, these are the things that He will bring about in our lives.
God doesn’t promise that he’ll find your memory stick, he doesn’t promise that you’ll ace every exam you sit, he doesn’t promise that your friends will stick around, he doesn’t even promise you won’t get hurt. He does promise he’ll be with you. He does promise to give you wisdom when you ask. He does promise that the Spirit will teach, guide and comfort.
Is this consistent with what we teach our kids about prayer? I’m talking young kids – and teenagers – is this even what I remind myself of? Or do we start teaching them that he gives what we ask for – because he loves us. I have done that at times. God does love us, and God does want us to talk to him, and ask of him, but he also wants us to want what he wants.
David was a man after God’s own heart. David wanted what God wanted.
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One of the hardest lessons in teaching our kids to pray came when Nomi was about seven. She had been through years of intense gut pain. She would crunch up her little body and scream out in pain – I can only liken it to a woman in labour pain. In the lull between spasms she would cry out – “Why me! Why has God given me this pain!” Our heart would break – how do you answer your little girl with such a heart ache. Many years later we were visiting a Bible study meeting and they talking about pain, talking about God and pain. There was an open discussion and Nomi, who was about 13 years old, in a group of people she didn’t know – spoke up. She said – I’ve had a lot of pain and I used to ask, “why has God given me this pain” and I don’t know why, but I always knew he would help me through it – and he always has.
She learnt the truth. She learnt that God wasn’t going to take away that pain, that was there as a consequence of the fallen world, full of sickness and disease, but he had kept her alive, and through every bout of pain, he was beside her. That was what got her through the times of pain.
So with all this flashing through my mind – I casually say to Daniel – “Wanna pray about it?” He said, “Already have – it is up to him.” I had been a bit surprised about Daniel’s calmness – but his simple answer told more than he was telling. He was trusting God – whether he found the stick or not.
Within five minutes of me prompting Daniel to pray he found the memory stick. It was lying there in the area he had been searching in, actually he had already cleaned up that area – don’t know how we didn’t see it before.
I was prepared to talk to Daniel (should he not find the memory stick) and ask him – What does God want of you in this situation? But instead the lesson was for me; Daniel was trusting God – What did God want of me in this situation?
He wanted me to be brave enough to ask my son to pray about it.
Over to you:
How have you taught your kids to pray? How have you handled disappointment with God’s answers? Love to hear your thoughts – keep scrolling to the comment box.
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Every day is full of opportunity to introduce our children to God and his truth. We need to use the things we see and do as object lessons to teach the heart of our kids.