The Israelites had calls to prayer: daily the shofar sounded to call the people for songs and chants. Muslims have prayer calls five times each day.
Christians have no such formal regimen of prayer – which is good and bad. It means that we are free to pray all the time and anywhere. Christians have prayed in homes and in catacombs, and in hospitals and in prisons, and in meadows and in airplanes – even in outer space! We don’t have to be in a special place, wearing certain clothing, facing a specific direction, at designated time of day to pray. But our very freedom to pray often means we don’t pray. We may say that we are continually in a state of prayer – that we weave prayer through everything we do. And that might be true. But, maybe not.
Thankfully, our daily life is full of calls to prayer. And – for those with children – our parenting life is the loudest call. Parenting is a CALL TO PRAYER!
These people that God has put into our lives and these responsibilities we shoulder – they all can be used by God to draw us into prayer or they can de-rail us and distract us from prayer.
Jesus had them, too – people hounding Him and responsibilities that weighed on Him – and yet (or because of them!), He lived prayer. In the Gospels, we catch glimpses of how Jesus prayed.* Jesus is our best model of praying: he prayed alone and among the people. He prayed blessings over food. He prayed to forgive and He prayed to chastise. He prayed for Himself and for His people and for Jerusalem. He prayed to keep Himself yielded to God’s will and He prayed to protect His people from spiritual danger.
GOD USES OUR PARENTING TO CHANGE OUR PRAYING AND PRAYING TO CHANGE OUR PARENTING.
Our role as parents isn’t only about our kids. It’s about us! God uses parenting to change us. It is our sanctification! God sanctifies all of His dear ones through the people and tasks He puts in their lives. For parents, that means is often our children. Their pains and sorrows become our own. Their obediences and sins bring us joy and sorrow. Their questions challenge us. Their sadness burdens us. In a mysterious way, we are bound to them.
LIFE with these growing people is either A CALL TO PRAYER or A DISTRACTION FROM PRAYER.
The alert parent has hundreds of calls to prayer each day – but they rarely come clearly identified as calls to prayer. They come as life. Messy. Sweet. Real-life life. Not the cooing-baby-glowing-parent life of the diaper commercials. Nothing like that! But deeper and real-er.
They come in the form of the mundane stuff of life: night-time feedings, colicky crying, diaper blow-outs, runny noses, cozy cuddlings, skinned knees, spilled milk, daily chores and weekly errands.
They span the range of emotional situations: tempter tantrums, disciplinary discussions, homework wranglings, financial problems, medical crises, teachable moments, heated arguments, adolescent questionings.
They include the simple delights: looking up at the stars, watching a thunderstorm, enjoying music, reveling in physical abilities, watching ants, staring into the firelight, sharing a snack, spreading a feast.
Why do you think God made the young ones so helpless and adorable and demanding and klutzy?? He could have sent them into the world as fully capable creatures just smaller in size. Their need of us binds our hearts to them. We need them to need us in order to forge the relationships that will carry us all through life together.
We are NOT caregivers. We are life-givers. We sacrifice everything from money to energy for our children. And in doing so, we are forever changed.
And – once a parent, always a parent. Even after they’ve left our home and are spilling their milk in their own homes, and denting their own cars, and handling their own money – they are still ours. They may ask for prayer. They may not. But the attentive parents still knows much of what to pray for. And if we don’t pray for our dear ones, who will?
Prayer is not a lofty exercise. It is not a complicated formula. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time. It can be as simple as a whisper of thanks, a cry for help, a groan of surrender. To the ever-listening God of the universe. He made prayer for us – because He knows we need Him.
God has told us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) because He knows how much we need Him on this unrelenting, often bewildering, sometimes dangerous, frequently arduous family path. In prayer, we align our will to His, we fight our own sin, we point our children God-ward. We are thankful and we are desperate. We are just where God wants us to be.
Every prick of anxiety and every hint of joy is a call to prayer. So, listen up! It is NOT just spilled milk. It is God calling you to pray. Pray on, parent.
“May He give us a large and strong heart
to believe what mighty influence our prayers can exert.”
~ Andrew Murray
*e.g. Matthew 6:9-15, Matthew 19:13, Matthew 26:26-28, Matthew 26:42, Matthew 27:4, Mark 7:34, Mark 9:29, Luke 3:21, Luke 5:15-16, Luke 6:12, Luke 9:16, Luke 9:28, Luke 10:2, Luke 23:34, 46, Luke 24:30, John 11:41f, John 17