"Why do we pray to God to take care of the children?" Bobby asked, "I should think he would want to do it."... -Tell Me About Prayer, pg 47
Have you ever tucked your child into bed at night and somewhere in your hushed prayers, God brought another picture to your mind, of a child with no one to tuck them in at night? No one to kiss their cheek and whisper an "I love you"? Did it unsettle you as much as it does me? Or maybe your little one asked to pray for all the kids that are cold and hungry and don't have a home to live in and in their voice you heard a sadness that echoed your own? Were the words to these prayers hard to form past the lump in your throat? And did your prayers seem like they were inconsequential compared to such incomparable darkness? This story from the book Tell Me About Prayer by Mary Alice Jones has such a heartening (and quickening!) answer to those questions that can haunt us the most about the pain and desperate needs of this world.
"Bobby and Mary and their mother and daddy were coming home from their church. A visitor had been there. He had told the people about some children who were hungry and cold and sick. All the people at church had prayed that God would help the children.
"Why do we pray to God to take care of the children?" Bobby asked, "I should think he would want to do it."
"That isn't really what we prayed for, son," his daddy said. "Do you remember? We prayed that the children would know God was loving them. We prayed that God would help us to want to share with them."
Bobby remembered. "But why do we have to take care of them? Why doesn't God do it?" he wanted to know.
"Would you like to live in a world where people did not love each other and help each other, Bobby? Where there were no kind people to help sick children be well? Would it be a good world if nobody thought of anybody else? But everybody thought only of what he wanted and of how to get his own way?"
Bobby thought about that for a minute. "And nobody took turns or gave presents or shared? No, that would not be a good world," he decided.
"God knew when he planned our world that people would not be happy unless they thought of each other and helped each other. And so he planned it that way."
"Tell me more about it."
"He left some things for people to do for each other. Mothers and fathers and teachers and doctors to help boys and girls to share with one another. And people in all nations to help each other. If people are selfish or mean, others suffer. That is the way the world is made."
Bobby thought some more. "And if we pray, does God make us remember to help other people? Is that the way he takes care of them?"
"That is not the only way God takes care of them, Bobby, but it is one important way. When we pray for other people, God helps us to think of ways we can help them. He helps doctors to think of ways to take care of children. And he helps the people we pray for to be better because they feel that we love them and are praying for them."
"I think God has helped us to know ways we can help take care of the children we heard about at church," Mother said. "I know we could send them some cereal."
"And I could send them one of my sweaters," Bobby said.
"I could send them one of my sweaters, too," Mary said.
"And I could take some money out of the bank and give it to the man to buy some milk for them," Daddy said.
"But the man said there were so many children," Bobby remembered. "I think we should ask God to help lots and lots of people to want to send them something."
"And to help the children to know that he loves them always," Mother added.
"And to help the children to know that we love them, too," Mary said.
So they prayed for the children who were hungry and cold and sick. And they made some prayers for other people who needed help, too." Tell Me About Prayer, pgs 48-49
After my husband read this story to our children, their faces lit up as they offered to give their treasured possessions to someone who might be in need of them. Astair said she would give her piggy bank, Boston wanted to give his baseballs (and teach them how to play), Legend offered to give them his pillow, and Thaddeus wanted to invent something for them that would make their life better. It tears me up to think about it. But I don't want it to be just another tear jerker. Honestly, it has fanned a flame that's been burning in my soul for a long time. The burning of a love that consumes every shadow of darkness, and won't be contained, can't be restrained, and although it sputters, it refuses to go out.
I remember that year my husband was preparing for a mission trip to Haiti. We found the small half of an island on our globe and talked and prayed with our kids over daddy's upcoming trip. We prayed that daddy would be the hands and feet and hugs of Jesus to little orphans so in need of love. And my oldest, then six years old, had deep questions to ask about orphans and when we explained that orphans had no mommies and daddies, he stated so matter-of-factly, "Well, why don't we pray that daddy can bring them mommies and daddies?" I'll never forget the look my husband and I shared over the top of a spinning globe that was blurring as our eyes spilled over it. That prayer was so right.
And I remember our conversation afterwards... the one in which we prayed we would always be willing to be the answer to the prayers we pray for someone else.
I remember that prayer and my heart wants to beat down every excuse I've erected since then...every opportunity to be the answer God wanted to use, that I might have missed, or I put off until tomorrow.
And love isn't something I can put off until tomorrow....when prayer becomes not just words we say, but a way we love.
"My brothers and sisters, if a person claims to have faith but does nothing, that faith is worth nothing. Faith like that cannot save anyone. Suppose a brother or sister in Christ comes to you in need of clothes or something to eat. And you say to them, "God be with you! I hope you stay warm and get plenty to eat," but you don't give them the things they need. If you don't help them, your words are worthless. It is the same with faith. If it is just faith and nothing more--if it doesn't do anything--it is dead." -James 2:14-17
P.S. Thank you to all who entered the giveaway! The winner was Jamie H. and was notified by e-mail :)