Praying like a child

A few weeks ago, we were at my mother-in-law’s house setting up for a garage sale. Josiah and Kia soon became bored of the sorting, organizing and pricing, and wandered off to find even greater adventures. “Mom! Come look what I found!” interrupted my seemingly never-ending task. When I went to look, I found two four-year-old boys knelt down under a tree burying a dead bird they had found in the yard. Tenderly the boys placed leaves atop the bird, completing his burial with a cross made of twigs. Touched by their gentle spirits, I commented how kind they were being, and then Josiah shocked me by his next statement. “He won’t be there tomorrow, Mom. He’s dead now, but I prayed to God to make him alive again.”

Whew. Where do you go with that one? And how do you respond? I was trying to figure out how to gently let him down, to prevent his disappointment over unanswered prayers, to somehow balance encouraging his blossoming faith, while keeping with the reality of a dead, mangled bird coming back to life. I didn’t know exactly what to say, so ended up smiling and saying nothing. Now looking back, I know that was the best option.

Prayer’s a tough issue – isn’t it? I mean we all say we believe in it, we all do it, but we all would have had a similar reaction to Josiah’s childlike faith in praying for this dead bird to be resurrected to life again, wouldn’t we? Since the conversation that day, God has been gently convicting me about my lack of faith in prayer, and how I almost passed that onto the very child I should be learning from when it comes to faith.

Jesus used children and their childlike faith to teach his disciples, those who the very closest to him. He said, “unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.”

And so we are reminded to pray with the simplicity and faith of a child, unhindered by past disappointments, cynicism or unbelief. Let us embrace Jesus’ directions for prayer. “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.”

As we read through the Bible, we see a lot of people praying in a lot of different ways. We read David praising God, Hannah making personal requests of God, and Hezekiah pouring out his thanksgiving to God after recovering from illness. We also read many prayers of intercession – people praying for others. One Bible scholar and prayer warrior, TW Hunt, tallied and calculated the total number of prayers in the Bible for which we know the answer was given. He found out that 78% of all answered prayers in the Bible were prayers of intercession! Paul instructed Timothy about praying for others. “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them, intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.”

Intercession, while a fancy word, is really quite simple – and something all of us have done at various times for friends, family and even strangers. Intercessory prayer is the idea that righteous individuals go before a Holy God to seek reconciliation between Him and His fallen creation. That is something we can all do. But maybe you’re thinking righteous? You obviously didn’t see me today at work, or yesterday while waiting in line at the grocery store – because surely you wouldn’t be calling me righteous. Well if righteousness was based on our behaviors or thoughts, clearly none of us would be worthy of that calling.

However, we can look once again to Paul, who, in writing to the church of Rome said, “This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, ‘It is through faith that a righteous person has life.’” So each one of us, regardless of yesterday’s less than stellar thoughts, and today’s outbursts, can boldly approach God on the behalf of others and intercede for them. Intercession is simply talking to God about people. And that can be done anywhere – we know God doesn’t listen anymore intently to prayers whispered in a cathedral than those wailed in a closet.

But what if there were a way to be increase the fervency, intensity and reality of our prayers for others? How might that happen? One possible way to do this is to pray on location – praying for people in the very place we find ourselves. And what better way to do that, than through prayer walking? Tomorrow we’ll look at some specific details about prayer walking, and how this exercise can not only help our physical bodies, but our spiritual selves as well.