Welcome to the blog of author Marlo Schalesky!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How To Pray Like a Two-Year-Old

Hi Friends,

So, Joelle turned 7 on Saturday - I can't believe how fast the years go! Bryan took her to Disneyland for her birthday. They had a great time (of course) and talked about "God stuff." I should have known, because God has always been one of Joelle's favorite topics. In fact, when she was two, she taught me how to pray.

Now, it’s not that I don’t know how to pray. I’ve been a praying Christian for years. I’ve read all the books, I’ve studied all the greats - Augustine, Brother Lawrence, and a dozen others. I’ve given talks and written seminary papers. I’ve fasted, and prayerwalked, and read the Lord’s Prayer in Greek. I’ve even written articles! And still, the best prayer lesson I've gotten came from my daughter when she was two years old.

It happened like this: The food steamed on the table. The silverware shone. Our older daughter, Bethany (then 5), squirmed in her seat. “Who’s gonna pray so we can eat?” She looked down at the spaghetti on her plate.

I opened my mouth to volunteer, but before I could say a word, a little voice piped up from beside me.

“Me do it. I pray.”

I glanced at our two-year-old daughter, Joelle. “Okay, you do it. You know what to do?”

She nodded.

She’d never prayed out loud for a meal before, but she had heard us pray hundreds of times. We always asked God to bless the food and thanked Him for it.

Joelle folded her hands as we all bowed our heads.

Then, we waited. And waited.

I peeked at her. “Go ahead, sweetie. Pray.”

She closed her eyes. Then, came her prayer, loud and clear over the table. “Jesus no cry. Jesus be happy. Amen.”

We all looked up.

Bethany frowned. “That’s a funny prayer. Can we eat now or not?”

I tapped her hand and shushed her. “It’s a great prayer. You can eat.”

Joelle stuffed her fork into her spaghetti and ignored her sister. “I pray,” she muttered.

I smiled as I contemplated her words. She prayed all right. A prayer no one had taught her, a prayer that came right from her heart, a prayer that put all my grown-up prayers to shame. In six simple words, Joelle had gotten to the heart of God-honoring prayer - not a rote repetition about the food, but a sincere desire for Jesus to be happy.

As I sat there twirling spaghetti on my fork, I thought about how my prayers compared with Joelle’s. Sure, I knew all the right phrases and all the how-to’s. Yet, as I contemplated her simple words, I saw how woefully self-centered my own prayers had become. I asked for blessings on my family, help with my work, wisdom in dealing with people, and that all would go well. Good things, surely, and things that God wants me to pray for. But it wasn’t enough. If I were to simplify my prayers down to Joelle’s language, I saw that they would sound more like “Marlo no cry. Marlo be happy.” Where Joelle prays for Jesus, I pray for me.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:10 (NIV) to pray, “your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I’ve read those words so many times, but only through Joelle’s prayer have I seen their deeper meaning. When we spurn God’s will, Jesus weeps. When we do His will, Jesus is happy.

So, as I contemplate how to deepen my own prayer life, I'm remembering Joelle's lesson to me that instead of only asking for God’s blessing, I should to focus more on asking God to help me to be pleasing to Him. As I ask for His help in my work and writing, I want to also voice my desire for Him to help me to glorify Him in my life. When I ask for wisdom, I want to ask Him to help me honor Him in all I do and think. And instead of focusing on my desire for all to go well, maybe I’ll ask Him what I can do to bring Him joy.

In other words, I still need to learn to pray with childlike faith. To pray, “Jesus no cry. Jesus be happy.” I need to pray like a two-year-old.


Ann Kroeker said...

I *love* this post. Wow.

This is a beautiful example of what Jesus must have wanted us to see (and hear) when He told us that to enter the kingdom of heaven we are to become like little children.

This past weekend I visited a church where they did a drama sketch about a family that tried to have a family devotional time. The mom asked the dad to share his favorite verse, and possibly in an attempt to shorten the time, the dad said, "Oh, you mean 'Jesus wept'?" The mom said, "Yes. Okay, kids, repeat after me: 'Jesus wept.'"

The kids repeated it with no feeling. She said it again, the repeated it. It was supposed to be silly, and it was humorous to see how forced everything was for the fictional family

But I actually sat there thinking, "Wow, if that really sank into a person, you really could build a stirring devotional around 'Jesus wept.'"

Your daughter already did.

Marlo Schalesky said...

Thanks, Ann! And you're right - you could get a whole month of sermons out of those two little words. Amazing, huh?

Anonymous said...

What a great story! And so cute, too! Our pastor gave pretty much this same sermon last Sunday on the innocence of children, and how we can learn from that as adults. This is a great example - and such a lesson of simplicity and a pure heart. Thanks for sharing about life from your dinner table!

Kelly Langner Sauer said...

you make me want to listen to my own children even more...

Anonymous said...

sigh, beautiful...

Marlo Schalesky said...

Thanks, all! I love listening to my kids pray (especially the little ones). They are so straightforward and honest. They just tell God what's on their heart and mind with no concern for what the rest of us might be thinking about their prayers. They just talk to God - I love that!

L.L. Barkat said...

Yes, I've always felt it could be boiled down to "Thy Kingdom come..."

Actually, that somehow captures me and Jesus both. Because without that reality, we each grieve.

Loved the center of this post particularly! :)

Laura said...

I'm there too, Marlo...trying to learn how to pray. This is a pretty good lesson!

A very sweet post. I bright spot for me tonight. :)

Marlo Schalesky said...

Thanks! Ooo, I like the "Thy Kingdom come element" - that's a great point. And Laura, thanks so much for your encouraging words about this post!

Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus said...

Marvelous post. Your words stir within as I consider prayers that really touch the heart of Jesus.

Joelle knows. She really knows.

Janis@Open My Ears Lord said...

This was a beautiful post. The children's hearts are so pure at that age. I like Ann's insight that we must become like little children to enter the kingdom. And Jesus gathered the children around Him, He was not bothered by them. Our hearts need to be open to them as well.

Marlo Schalesky said...

I agree Janis. Opening our hearts to children also seems to open our hearts to God. And thanks, Jennifer! Joelle continues to have a real love for Jesus, which has been so fun to see develop over the years. I pray that she'll always be tender toward His leading in her life.

S. Etole said...

So glad I found the way here ... and the beautiful lesson on prayer.

Marlo Schalesky said...

Thanks so much! I'm glad you found your way here too, and I hope you'll continue checking back for other thoughts about life and God and kids and the wonder of Him! One easy way to get here (easy to remember, anyway) is through www.YourDeepLife.com. That address also goes directly to my blog here. :-)

Mark said...

I know that this post is already a bit older, but it hit a nerve.
I mean, God loves us, but we give him so much grief. Yet he is also almighty and therefore obviously able to handle everything. Still, sometimes I pray to him expressing my hope that he is okay. He obviously is since he is almighty, but sometimes I feel the need to express my love for him by telling him in a prayer that I hope that he is okay. He knows that I care anyway, but sometimes I simply feel the need to simply tell him. In this sense I congratulate your daughter on her first prayer. She did not try to rationalise her prayer like I have just done, she simply did.

Frankly, I hope that God smiles upon my prayer just as much as he must have smiled on your daughter’s prayer.

Marlo Schalesky said...

Thanks so much for your comments on praying like a little kid. I very much appreciate your perspective (and that you even found this older post!). And I very much believe that God smiles on your prayers, looking on you, his beloved child, with love and joy!