Prayer is a vital part of life; It has to be or else we lose connection with God. It is true that people who don’t believe in God will sometimes pray because there is something in us that desires to see something powerful happen around us. Prayer is also a place that gets neglected in lives because it is perceived as something that needs to be done in a liturgical manner. I have heard often the longings of someone who says they want to pray more but just don’t have the time. My question to them is always: “How much time do you actually need to pray?”
The Bible tells us to “pray continually” and to “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions”. When people read that they get even more discouraged because that sounds like something nobody can ever accomplish. That leads to discouragement and a lack of connection with God. We tend to complicate things a bit with our ideas. I think it is helpful to look at the prayer lives of children in order to get a better sense of what it should look like. Yes, you heard me right – children.
We have taught our children to pray as they go about life and to be sensitive to when that needs to happen. No, it has not happened as much as it should, but it has happened more than it ever would have without our direction. For example, if one of them wakes up during the night because they had a scary dream, we will always remind them that God is bigger and pray with them. This has helped them to have the confidence to do this on their own when they have felt some fear. At other times there might be people who are hurting or need something and we will pray for them. This past summer my son and I came upon a scene of someone we know getting air lifted to a hospital after he fell while doing some roof work. I was pacing the house and my son looked at me and said, “dad, I prayed for him.” I was pacing continually and he was praying continually!
The other night I was driving with my 2-year-old daughter when she said, “Thank you God” a few different times just randomly. She was praying while we were driving back from the store. Every night we pray with her and thank God for whatever comes to mind. The other night she thanked God for “quack quacks” and “Jesus”. This simple activity before bed has been integrated into more areas of her life without our forcing it to happen!
I think we can learn something from the prayer life of children. There is no filter to their prayer; they are real. They are not afraid to just pray out loud. They pray with such faith and simplicity. It is no wonder Jesus told us to have faith like children.
The lesson for me is to pray for whatever, whomever, whenever the Spirit leads. It means to not simply go through a list of requests, but to pray as people come to mind. It means praying with people who need to find that connection with God. Above all it means making sure that prayer is a continual part of my life because without prayer we are powerless to accomplish God’s work!