Prayer is probably my worst "subject". I struggle with it.
It isn't that I don't believe it works. I do. I've seen it work. I've felt it work. I fervently believe in prayer.
But when my knees hit the floor (so to speak), I struggle. My overactive mind wanders fast and far without the slightest provocation. Closing my eyes or having some quiet time is merely an invitation to daydream. Over the years, I have come to realize my imagination is abnormally over-active. That can be good and bad. For writing, it's good. For prayer time, not so much. I love to pray, if I can focus and not get lost in thoughts. If I can't, I tend to feel like a failure.
The only way I have felt comfortable with prayer is when I can offer short sentence prayers throughout my day. This I like. This I can handle. Most of the time, I make it all the way through one sentence. Sometimes even two. If I have a friend who is having surgery or if Brian has a big meeting at work, I like to send up little prayer bursts. But those times of sitting in a quiet corner and praying for 15-20 minutes...those are not my strong suit.
Particularly praying in front of others is absolutely terrifying for me. You can count on one hand how many times I have volunteered to pray. When given the chance, I gladly leave that opportunity to someone else for fear I will stutter and stumble my way through something they could handle much more capably.
When I became a mother, I knew I'd have to somehow model prayer for my children. And that was pretty scary. It wasn't long before there were small people waiting for me to pray so they could eat their lunch. With great relief I realized this was a good time to teach my children the Lord's Prayer which they now utter with ease.
Brian and I also instituted a nightly prayer time. Each night they are encouraged to offer their own prayer for family or friends or neighbors or missionaries or leaders or pastors. On Sunday nights they say their prayer of thanks for whatever is on their hearts.
At first, these were somewhat rote prayers. "Dear Lord, we pray for our missionaries. Please be with them and bless them. Amen." Not bad. Just not so...interesting. I'm not suggesting God was bored with these prayers. But they are pretty easy to just rattle off without much thought. Still, it was a good practice.
Except lately, prayer has become something more.
It started just before Hunter was born. The girls began praying, without being asked, for the baby in Mommy's tummy each night. Sometimes they prayed for a brother. Sometimes just that the baby would be healthy. Clearly, they have a direct line to God!
These past few weeks I have loved listening to their near-conversational prayers. Reagan loves to pray for people who aren't feeling well. She prays for people who got new jobs. She prays that we will have a better night if we've had a rough one.
Maddie offers wonderful stream-of-consciousness prayers. She prays for her family - slowly naming each one of us several times until she is sure she has gotten all of us in there. She prays for her comfy bed. She might pray for her princesses or her barbie. She rarely forgets to pray for flowers.
It has been so cool to listen to their hearts. If something is troubling them, you can bet God will hear about it in their prayers. If they are excited or happy about something, they'll be sure to mention it.
Honestly, I am just amazed by how they have "gotten" prayer. I don't feel like I've been the very best role model, but clearly God has used this weakness in ways far beyond my means.
I have been learning so much from my kids. They have reminded me to pray for anything on my heart. They have taught me how to pray without embarrassment or fear of what others will think. They are not concerned about using the right words. They don't panic if they stumble or lose their train of thought. There is nothing too small or insignificant to pray about.
Yesterday, I asked Maddie if she would like to say our prayer for lunch. She nodded. (She actually volunteered!) She bowed her head and said, "Dear Lord, thank you for my Mommy. Thank you for how she takes care of me and loves me. She does lots of stuff. She let's me pick out my own clothes. In your name, Amen."
So yesterday I learned a new lesson. I learned that prayer is one of the best ways to love one another.