Let the Little Children…

We were cruising around the block for the umpteenth time. Street-side parking spots are rare in San Francisco, and we urgently needed one. I was grumbling under my breath, my attitude deteriorating faster than an overripe banana, when a small voice piped up from the carseat in back. “Mom, did you ask God for a parking spot?”

“Er, that’s a great idea, sweetie! Why don’t you pray for us?”

So my preschool-aged daughter asked God for a parking spot—and darned if one didn’t appear just down the street, as if by magic.

Hmmm, I thought.

I won’t say I was trying to manipulate God. (I may have tried, but I sure don’t want to admit it!) But I have noticed that prayers coming from the mouths of babes seem to get more immediate attention.

We can be talking about babes in years, such as my then-4-year-old, or babes in Christ, new believers. It doesn’t matter. When my kids were little, many of their prayers were definitely answered in a shorter time frame, one more in keeping with their immature attention span. And when I had been a Christian for a mere six months or so, God answered my prayers quickly, too. Not only did God not ask us to wait, but He said yes to many of those baby prayers, which tended to be for things like parking spots and other blessings.

In many ways, Pete and I parented in similar fashion. If our kids asked for something good, we tried to say yes as often as we could. We didn’t expect them to wait; to a four-year-old, a week feels like forever!

Giving a rapid “Yes!” is one way both human parents and our heavenly Parent teach trust. We feel secure in the knowledge that someone greater than us both listens and has our best interests at heart. But eventually, there are more lessons to learn.

We have to learn faith, and patience, and to put the needs of others ahead of our own. We have to learn how to handle disappointment.

Now that I’ve been a Christian for almost 45 years, my relationship with God is quite a bit different than it was in the beginning—just as I interact differently with our daughters, now in their 30s, than I did when they were young.

My prayers used to be primarily focused on me—my needs, my wants. Please give me this, please arrange for that. Or, I would size up a problem, and then ask God to solve it—my way. Surely I knew what God should do in every situation! Think of a parent with a young child. They ask for a snack. They ask for a toy. They want cookies for dinner, not chicken and broccoli. They tell you that they don’t need a nap, and that they should keep playing instead of helping set the table.

But now I have far different conversations with my adult offspring. We talk about life, things like decisions we have to make, how the job is going, or problems the grandkids are having. It’s a conversation in which we both share. I ask their opinion, instead of just telling them the “right” way to look at an issue. Our relationship has matured. Often, the main goal is simply to hang out together because we enjoy one another’s company.

In the same way, my relationship with God has also matured. Sure, I still have needs and wants, but instead of listing my requests (at least they’re not demands), I bring things up as items for discussion. I spend time wanting to understand God’s concerns, priorities, desires. My prayer life is no longer a one-way monologue, and it’s no longer all about me.

God doesn’t always answer right away, either. Some things I pray for have been an ongoing topic for years. Some things I ask for, He says no to. Instead of getting upset, I need to remember that He’s treating me like an adult, implying I’ve made at least some progress over the years.

I’m glad that God didn’t let me remain a preschooler, either in life or in prayer. But the next time I need a parking spot in a crowded city, I’m going to ask my granddaughter to pray!

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