I have not stopped thinking about this conversation that I had with Zach after church yesterday.
Zach: "I prayed three times at church today."
Me: "Out loud?" (I didn't pray aloud with peers until I was 31.)
Zach: "No, in my head. I tried to pray during a song, but it was hard to focus."
Me: "Really? You prayed during a song? About what?"
Zach: "I asked Him (huh, my kid calls God HIM?) to help me when I'm afraid and to help me to do the right thing."
Me: "Were you feeling afraid? Or was the song about God helping kids to not be afraid, or to do the right thing?"
Zach: "No. I don't even remember what the song was about. I just wanted to pray about not being afraid and doing the right thing. I also prayed another time that God would help all the kids to listen, hear the message God had for them, and behave at church."
I'm just so encouraged by the prayer life of this 7 1/2 year old boy.
If I'm being honest, I am not sure that I have used prayer the right way in my kids' lives. As newborns, I definitely felt moved to pray with them and over them. They were beautiful, emotional, heart-felt prayers of thanksgiving; asking for wisdom, direction, provision, and blessing for my newborn boys and their Daddy and me. As they got older, I began praying with them in the car every time we were going somewhere that I would be separated from them (church nursery, school, and even friend's houses and birthday parties). Parts of these prayers are still very heart-felt and personal, but there is also a modeling and directing component for the kids. For years now, we have prayed for safety while apart, listening ears, self-control, hallway hands, learning the lesson God has for them (academic and otherwise), developing good friendships and character, being brave, trying our best, blessings and endurance for their teachers, etc. Pieces of that are very personal, but in the back of my mind, I know that other pieces of these prayers serve to prepare my kids for their departure into someone else' care.
When I put words to it, it sounds like a reminder through prayer of how they should behave. I don't know if my method is manipulating or godly. I certainly don't mean for it to be manipulating. I just mean for us to include God in our discussions; submitting our behavior and our day to Him.
As unsure as I am right now, Zachary has gotten one thing right that I do not have right in my own life. He talks to God constantly. He prays at school, on the playground, while having a popsicle or sitting on the sidelines at soccer. Not just when he's going somewhere new, facing a challenge, processing a situation, or feeling thankful or in need. He talks to God the way he talks to friends over lunch. He cherishes time talking with his Heavenly father and believes that he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him. I often spend time struggling through something alone, and only come crawling to God when my own strength fails, or when I'm feeling especially grateful, or need to "pray up" for a task at hand. I don't just chat with God the way Zach does.
Thinking back to my childhood - how alone I felt and how intimidated I was by other people - I am so inspired by Zach's comfort in his own skin and his awareness of God's presence. That comes to him through his personal relationship with Christ - this relationship that has a depth and richness well beyond his 7 1/2 years.
When I grow up, I want to be like Zach.