Why Pray? Answers to questions kids ask (and us grown ups too)... Pt. 1


"I'm not going to pray anymore," Bobby announced.  
His mother looked at him.  "Aren't you, son?"
"Just look at that rain," Bobby went on. "I asked God to send a nice day today for the school trip.  I asked him two nights,  And he didn't."
"Is that why you pray, Bobby?  To tell God what He should do?"
Bobby thought a minute.  Then he looked uncomfortable.  "That doesn't sound right, does it?  That I should tell God what to do?"
"Not if you trust God, son.  This is a very great world.  There is a great deal about it that we have not learned to understand.  We might make some bad mistakes if God let us tell Him what to do....Right this minute I know some people are glad it is raining.  I think they are saying, 'Thank God for the rain', because their fields need rain to make the grain grow."....
"You can always talk with God about whatever you want to talk with him about, Bobby.  But I think it is not good to tell God what to do, and be angry when he does not do it.  I think it is better to ask God to help us know what he wants us to do with what we have."  
-Tell Me About Prayer by Mary Alice Jones

When a children's book can comfort, convict, and inspire and answer those questions the harbored child in your heart asks, and you can't put it down, but re-read every single page...you know it's a good one.  There are those books that are written once in a century whose words never grow old, they are timeless tomes of wisdom.  They are not written in wordy, flowery, exhaustive sentences, but in simple profound truth that has more power to change lives than one thousand theological expositions.  Tell Me About Prayer by Mary Alice Jones is just such a book.  (an interesting side note:  Mary wrote this book in 1949 and she spent most of her life educating children about God, she also received her Ph.D. from Yale and became the first woman teacher at Yale Divinity School).

It was Sunday night.  I heard the steady cadence of my husband's voice reading to the kids upstairs and I wondered at how still they had become.  Usually we read and a circus troop of acrobats perform.  But this night was different.  Afterwards, my husband came downstairs, excited to share with me the treasure he had found nearly forgotten on a bookshelf.  And I was all eyes and ears, not remembering the last time he was excited about a book.  I'm the one that gets all giddy over written words.  I was surprised to find my name written on the first page, in my Grandma Ruby's script.  How had I missed this gift?

We both read the story again, and then a third time, savoring the deep of it, wondering at the wisdom of it, thankful for the way it spelled out the questions every child's heart wonders and then gave a carefully considered and heavily weighted answer.  This is gold for every parent, every sunday school teacher, every person whose questions still nag at their heart or who have wondered how to give an answer to those who seek.  Because sometimes we honestly don't know.  There are things about God that are too deep for our shallow minds.  And I love how the author, Mary, reaffirms this.  It's not our lack of knowing the answer that makes the question burdensome, but rather our lack of understanding the character of God.

HE is the answer.  He has not hidden WHO HE IS from us.  He has displayed his character for us throughout Scripture.  There is much about the world and the way God governs it that we may never understand, but God invites us to know HIM intimately.  And prayer is one of the ways we do that.

"Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:12-14  

"My heart has heard you say, 'Come and talk with me.'  And my heart responds, 'Lord, I am coming.'"  Psalm 27:8

Something beautiful happens when we pray, when we seek God, when we respond to his eager invitation.  It becomes an honest conversation in which God reveals to us not only His own heart, but ours as well.

"One day Bobby was reading a paper his teacher at church had sent him.  He read, "God knows what you have need of before you ask him."
"Is that true, Mother?"  Bobby wanted to know.
"Yes, I think that is true, Bobby."
"Then why do we say our prayers?  Why should we tell him when he knows already?"
"Let me ask you another question, Bobby.  Do Mother and Daddy know what food is good for you to eat, and do they plan it for you?"
Bobby nodded his head.  His mother went on.
"But what would happen if you didn't eat the good good?"
"I would not grow.  I would be hungry."
"It is something like that with praying, son.  God plans for us to have the things that are best for us and to live the way that is best for us.  But if we do not know what he plans for us, we often get into trouble.  Or we do not get something good that God would like for us to have.   Or we do not do something good that God would like for us to do.  So we need to talk things over with God."
"Like with you and Daddy?"  Bobby asked.
"Something like that, Bobby.  God is very great.  We do not understand all about his plans for us.  But if we talk things over with him, he can help us understand."
"How does he?  How does he help us know?"
"Some good ideas which we had never thought of, we will think of.  Some good ways of doing things that we had never tried, we will decide to try.  Some good plans which we had never made, we will make."
"I thought praying was telling God about things," Bobby said.  "Is it letting God tell us about things?"
"I think God wants us to tell him everything we want to tell him, Bobby.  But sometimes we are so busy telling God things that we do not stop to listen.  He wants us to listen, too.  There is so much we need to know."...
And so Bobby and his mother prayed a listening prayer.
-Tell Me About Prayer by Mary Alice Jones, pages 53-54

And it really is that simple.  Talking to God and listening for what He would tell us as well.  Waiting on Him.  Just being with Him.  And most of all, trusting Him.  Trusting that He hears and that He cares.  That he has a plan for us to partner with Him.

And then you can ask your kids (or yourself) these questions and let God be the answer....

Are you lonely?
Are you doubting?
Are you angry?
Are you scared?
Do you need understanding?
Or maybe just a little light for tomorrow?

You can pray and "talk things over" with God.
He'll listen.  He always does.
And you might be surprised by what He'll show you when you take the time to listen, too...


Kimmie said...

Just ordered this on Amazon after reading about it here. I have one child, in particular, who often questions the purpose and effectiveness of prayer, and I think the simplicity of the answers in this book may be helpful to him. I think we can all gain something from it though. Thanks for sharing!

Joye Dicharry said...

I have one that thinks very deeply about prayer as well :) I'm so glad you ordered it! I really think you will love it. Praying it blesses your family as much as it's blessed mine!


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