“Trucks. Something, something, something….. Amen.”
My two-year-old son has been joining in with family prayer time at night.
He squeezes his eyes shut as a prerequisite to his prayer and then launches into it with gusto.
He always prays about trucks. Always.
The rest of the prayer may alter each night, longer or shorter as he feels inspired.
But he always begins with “trucks” and ends with “amen.”
Then my son picks which person in the family prays next, calling out our names one at a time and then squeezing his eyes shut again as we take our turn.
He’s exercising these first baby steps of faith, these first moments of giving God his heart and sharing with his heavenly Father what’s on his mind (which is apparently trucks every single day).
Sure, it’s as cute as can be and every night as he finishes praying, my daughters announce, “how adorable.”
But it’s also challenging to me.
Because sometimes in the wearying discouragement that batters my heart after my own unanswered prayers, I don’t always feel like praying anymore.
There are honest moments when it feels like, “what’s the point?” and “does this make any difference?”
And there are times when I feel the bitter sting of anger because if God is going to do whatever He chooses anyway, why have I fasted and why have I planted myself face down on the floor and why I have petitioned Him in the very darkest moments in the middle of the night?
Yet, here is my son.
He doesn’t understand the mystery of why we do this, gather in the living room each night and take turns shutting our eyes, talking for a few seconds and stop with “Amen.”
For now, he mimics what we do without meaning or understanding, but he will grow over time. He will hopefully learn and slowly the prayers will become true petitions to a God he personally chooses to worship and to know.
My youngest daughter takes her turn in the family prayer time. She tells God everything, all that is in her heart and all that she hopes for those around her.
We’ve been spending time this summer doing a family devotional and prayer activity through Focus on the Family that has us praying for a different country every night.
So she asks God to help leaders in Zimbabwe and families in Australia and the poor in Ethiopia. She keeps it simple and direct, but she believes, truly believes, that her prayer offered up before bedtime touches God’s heart and makes a difference for people she cannot meet, see, or know.
What astonishing, incredible faith.
And it comes from my two-year-old who just wants God to know that he loves trucks.
And from my six-year-old who isn’t afraid to “go big” and ask God to change the world.
I’ve had a six-month stretch of prayerful intensity, of spiritual battles and deep intercession for those in crisis.
I’ve been disappointed with some of God’s answers, for the places He’s chosen not to heal and the miracles He’s chosen not to give, and the conclusions to some of these trials.
But I take heart as I watch my children pray because faith grows. It’s not static or stuck. It begins small perhaps or maybe it shrinks down in difficult seasons.
Even small faith has impact, though.
Even small faith is a seed that grows.
Jesus told His followers:
“If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” Luke 17:6 ESV
At first, I feel overwhelmed. I haven’t been effectively telling trees to go jump into the ocean lately, so what does that say about my faith?
What’s wrong with me?
But in her book, The Gospel of Mark, Lisa Harper reminds us that:
tiny faith can bring about giant results…when our faith wanes and seems as small as a mustard seed, we still don’t have to live like chickens.
In seasons where our faith is sickly and weakened by battle fatigue, we can just keep coming to Him and bringing our tiny seed of faith.
Keep coming to Him with brokenness and disappointment.
Keep coming to Him on days we feel filled with mighty mountain-moving faith and the days when we battle doubts and our prayers seem to bounce off the proverbial ceiling.
We just keep coming.
Only when we persevere and keep coming will our faith-seed grow again, shooting up signs of life, sprouting up with renewed strength, blooming and bearing fruit.