How my prayers shifted and why that’s a good thing

We started praying on Sunday.   In our round-robin family prayers at night, many of us chimed in with the same prayer:

“Lord Jesus, please help everyone who is sick feel better quickly and please, please, please, please do not let Lauren get sick this week.  Amen.”

The stomach virus rampaged through our family last week, making mockery of our schedule and activities.

But we prayed it would miss Lauren by leapfrogging over this middle daughter.

 

Not that we wanted anyone to get sick, of course, but Lauren had a big week.

Class picture day on Tuesday.

Field trip on Wednesday.

Math Bowl competition on Thursday.

Karate belt test on Saturday.

One upset stomach could sabotage any of these activities, so we prayed she would just stay well.

And then my prayers changed, shifted in one gigantic, mountainous move.

Because she got sick.  She woke me up in the middle of the night and we ultimately retreated to the couches in the living room until she felt she could sleep.

That’s when I started praying for something different, not “Lord, help her avoid this tough situation.  Help her not to be uncomfortable, disappointed, or hurt.”

Now I prayed,  “Lord, help her right in the middle of what’s hard.  This is disappointing.  Help her to overcome.  Work on her character and teach her how to handle it when life doesn’t go the way we want.”

She missed the Math Bowl competition after working hard for weeks to prepare, and she felt like she let her team down.

But at the end of the night when she was feeling totally back to normal and it was all over and done with, I leaned down and cupped my hand under her chin,  I told her I couldn’t have been more proud of how she handled the hard, more proud than I could have been about any math medal.

God answered my prayers.

He didn’t give me what I wanted.  He didn’t help my child avoid something I would have preferred to skip altogether.

But He did a work in her heart, matured her right before my eyes, and taught her deeply meaningful lessons that matter far more in the end.

We’re still a little sad, but we found ourselves surprisingly okay.  We walked through the one thing we didn’t want to happen, and we made it.

God is good.

It’s a little nudge to my Mom-heart this week that maybe my prayers should remain shifted.

Maybe I’ll always pray for my kids to be protected from hurt and that everything would work out all the time.  I am, after all, their mom and I love them.

And a life with no pain or heartache, no disappointment or difficulty sounds pretty great.

But it also sounds spoiled and easy.  It sounds too sweet, like eating a bowlful of candy and ending up sick and with a mouth full of cavities.

God knows best for my kids and I can trust Him.  I can pray that He helps them through, gives them strength, teaches them to turn to Him, bringing their hurts and needs to Jesus.

And God knows best for me, too, and for the friends I pray for, the family I love, and the missionaries and the persecuted church I want to cover in prayer.

I read Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus:

 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might (Ephesians 1:16-19 ESV).

He could have prayed  so many things for this beloved church, that they escape persecution, that they prosper financially, that their businesses were successful and their families strong.

But He didn’t focus on their physical needs or wants.  He prayed that they know Jesus, know the hope they had in him  and know his power.

What if I started praying that for myself and for others?

Lord, may they know you.  

In anything they face, anything they go through, when they are facing the worst or receiving the best, may they know Jesus more and find Him so very faithful and so very strong.

May we always make knowing Him our deepest desire and our greatest pursuit.

The First Thing I Want You To Do

1-timothy-2

My girl clambered into the minivan after school, heavy backpack on her shoulders, heavy thoughts in her heart.

She waited for my daily question, “How was your day?”

And then she spilled the news about “this boy in my class.”

“This boy” was loud and disruptive and didn’t follow the rules.  He cost them rewards in art class and never obeyed the teacher.  He did inappropriate things and wouldn’t stay in line.

She finished her story, pronounced a loud “harumph” and slammed her arms criss-cross around her chest in a sign of definitive anger.

So many of our conversations take place this way, me angling the rear-view mirror to see faces, shouting back Mom-ly words of wisdom from the driver’s seat.

The minivan is prime time for deep conversations.

“You know what we need to do,” I hollered to the back seat.  “We need to pray for him and for your teacher.”

I expected her to shrug off my advice as impractical and unhelpful, no immediate solution and no personal satisfaction guaranteed.

But she didn’t.

I watched as her eyes brightened and as she lifted her face so her eyes met mine in the mirror.  She nodded in wholehearted agreement.

Later, snuggled together on our overstuffed blue couch, I prayed for “this boy” and for their teacher and when I was through, this child of mine–who finds kisses too embarrassing and declines to even hug much of the time–tossed her arms without reservation.

We parents, grandparents, teachers and leaders show our children how to pray.  We begin with bowed heads over scraped knees and boo-boos on fingers.

We seek forgiveness for wrongs and take difficult situations to God.

And then we begin to pray for others, turning their hearts outward in ministry and compassion.

But it all begins with us, modeling the habit and discipline of “take it to the Lord in prayer.”  It’s bringing Jesus right there into the center of our everyday.

As Paul wrote,

“The first thing I want you to do is pray.  Pray every way you know how for everyone you know” (1 Timothy 2:1 MSG).

The first thing we do is drop to our knees, not after consultations, Google-searches, strategies, all-night worrying sessions, and Facebook posts.  Pray first.

Perhaps God had been preparing me for that moment in the car because I’d been on my knees consistently for weeks over my girl.

Please God show me how to be the Mom she needs me to be, how to encourage her, love her, shepherd her heart, discipline her, and protect her.

In life and in parenting, we can read books, seek counsel, collect advice, listen to sermons, and Google search to our hearts content.

All that might be helpful and good, but what we need to do first and what we need to do most is pray.

 

Maybe God draws us to pray for our kids so that they’ll see us and learn how to bring His presence into the midst of all situations.  They’ll see our faith practiced in the everyday situations and learn to talk about life and God—-not life or God and never the twain shall meet.

Yes, this is more than Sunday morning belief or pew-sitting faith.  This is down and dirty life with God at our side, available to help us in every situation, to give us wisdom, strengthen our hearts, teach us to obey and discipline our desires.

We pray for our children because we love them and want the best for them.

But we also pray for them so that they learn to pray…so that when they encounter “this boy,” they know they can carry his case to God.

And when their friend is hurt by teasing, they’ll give a hug, say a kind word, and petition God on her behalf.

When they don’t know what to do, they whisper to God a request for help and follow His lead.

When life is hard, when situations are uncertain, when they feel afraid, when a friend loses a mom or they see someone with cancer, our kids need to know exactly what to do.  They need to pray.

We pray first, pray about everything, pray every way we can, and pray for everyone we meet.