Whether it's before bed, before meals, or during family worship, listening to my three children pray is one of the best parts of each day. Often, it's heartening and joyful to hear the words they speak in prayer--the childlike articulation of their fears, their desires, and even, it seems at times, their faith. Other times, the words of their prayers bring a more humorous joy, and Justin and I find ourselves thankful for the lightness and laughter that children bring.
When their prayers are funny, we're (mostly) careful to keep our smiles hidden (which sometimes involves containing our grins by keeping our faces hidden in our hands long after the 'Amen!'), as we don't want the kids to think we're either making light of this time, or making fun of them. But during the past few weeks, when there have been joyful moment while we're praying, I've been jotting it down so that I wont forget.
What follows are simply a few sweet or funny moments of praying with our kids. Since there are a few short stories I want to remember (and share!), I'll break this blog post into parts.
Several weeks back we went through a season where, par for the course of winter, one person in our family after another was sick with a cold or a flu bug of some variety. Naturally, it was on the kids' minds to pray for the health of their family members who were unwell. But Ella... well, Ella created an altogether new way of praying for the health--or should I say sickness--of her family.
When Justin is home at night, our goodnight routine typically involves all five of us up in the kids room together. First the kids and I will together sing the verse about sleep from Psalm 4, and then one or two of the children will pray before Justin closes in prayer. One night, Ella and I were sitting on Jake's bed for this nighttime ritual, and after we sang, she asked if she could pray. This was her prayer:
"Father, I pray that Mommy be fine, and that Jake be fine, and that Josh be fine. And I pray that Daddy would be SICK. Amen."
What? Why would...? I think that was an instance where all of us burst out laughing and demanded an explanation from the baby of the family. She didn't have much of a defense. But despite our best efforts to instruct her otherwise, for the next couple weeks, she'd randomly pray for sickness and disease to inflict different members of her family.
Another time, during a meal when we happened to have guests joining us, Ella asked if she could give thanks for dinner. With our friends, we joined hands around the table, and Justin asked the kids to bow their heads before we prayed. The hand-joining went without incident, but then as Ella bowed her head, she must have misjudged the distance from her forehead to the table because, SMACK! she hit that table hard. All of us looked up with first with concern but then, when Ella was clearly unhurt and not phased by the force with which she had just bowed her head into solid wood, we couldn't help but all smile.
Then she prayed. Both the form and the content of Ella's prayers make me smile. She adopts this strangely pious, sing-songy sounding voice (neither Justin or I pray like that, so I don't know where she got it from), and, though she tries to make it look like her eyes are closed, she often looks up and peeks around through her crinkled, half-opened eyes. (Yes, I realize the implications of me knowing that Ella does this while she prays.)
So there we sit, heads bowed and hands held with our guests, and Ella prays for a variety of sweet things that concluded with these words: "And Father, I pray that you'd help my Mommy to be more gracious. Amen."
Again, what? Why me? We all need to be gracious, don't we? Why did I just get singled out--in the presence of guests, no less!--as the one who needs extra special help being gracious? It was again a time where, despite our best efforts, we couldn't help but laugh and discuss why the two year old clearly thought I was in need of a little extra grace.