by Lisa A. Smith
BEDTIME THEOLOGY WITH MY 3-YEAR-OLD:
3-year-old: Are dragons real?
Me: No, honey, they’re not real.
3-year-old: (Yelling toward ceiling) God, can you make dragons? (Pause). He said no. They’re too big.
Me: Well, there are some lizards that are like dragons.
3-year-old: (Yelling toward ceiling again) God, can you make small dragons?
Just after Jesus teaches his disciples the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:1-13), he tells them to ask,
seek, knock, and it will be given, found, opened.
It is a wonder that God welcomes all our prayers. It is a blessed miracle that they are not always answered as we ask.
DELIGHTFUL, ODD PRAYING
Prayer is simply talking to God. You can do it anytime and anywhere. This is my standard children’s sermon on prayer and what I’ve told my own children. Prayer is both easy to grasp and perplexing. While children delight in imagination, they may find it odd to talk to a divine being we can’t see. My older child has already asked what the point of prayer is, if God knows everything anyway. Grownups often have these same questions. Sharing faith with our children is an opportunity not only to pray and talk with kids about prayer, but to consider and nurture our own prayer practices.
I’ve told my children that prayer is important.
WE PRAY, BUT WHY?
It’s tempting to make prayer a means to an end—a way to get something or check a box for being a good disciple. I’m learning that prayer is more of a journey … a transformation … an awakening. Jesus invites us to pray—to ask, seek and knock. The door will be opened, and we will find and receive. But what will we find? Where does that door lead? What do we gain in the process? When we place ourselves before
God, who will we become? Seen in this way, prayer is less of a task and more of a way to live.
Although sometimes we pray to change others, at its best, prayer changes us.
Prayer is a ritual—even when it feels rote or rushed. My oldest child, especially, races through bedtime prayer like an auctioneer. But he has said the Lord’s Prayer nearly every night for the past five years. That kind of ritual gets inside you. The words go deep.
I don’t know what he’ll pray about, or if he’ll pray, when he leaves my nest, but I know this: He will remember the words Jesus gave us and the feel of my hand in his. He will always have this ritual.
It is transforming him. We are being transformed together. Dragons not required.
The Rev. Lisa A. Smith is an ELCA pastor who loves exploring the wilderness near her Northwest U.S. home. She blogs at pastorlisawrites.com.
This article appears in the July/August 2022 issue of Gather. To read more like it, subscribe to Gather.