by Robin Jones Gunn
When we lived in Nevada, my daughter Rachel had a best friend named Kristin. We moved to Portland, Oregon, only a few days before Rachel’s first day of second grade. Each night we talked about her new school and prayed together before she went to bed.
The night before school started, Rachel prayed that Jesus would give her a new best friend at this school and that her name would be Kristin. I felt compelled to alter her prayer but decided to let it go. How do I tell my child she shouldn’t be so specific with God?
The next morning, Rachel stood in front of the mirror while I combed her hair. She seemed lost in thought, and then suddenly she announced to me that Jesus was going to give her a new best friend. Her name would be Kristin, and she would have brown hair, just like the Kristin in Nevada.
I quickly ran through all my mental notes on prayer. What would be the best way to explain to this child that prayer is not telling God what we have in mind for Him to do, but rather seeking His mind? I tried a few flimsy sentences. All fell flat. She seemed undaunted. I drove her to school, still unable to find a way to protect her from her own prayer. I was afraid she would experience a spiritual crisis when she arrived at school and found no brunet Kristin in her class. What would that do to her innocent faith?
We entered the classroom, and Rachel found her name on her new desk. She lifted the top and began to examine the contents. I sat down at the desk next to hers and decided this would be a good time to explain how praying isn’t like wishing. It’s not magic. You can’t ask God for something and expect it to materialize at your command. She needed to be willing to accept whatever new friends God brought to her.
I was about to plunge in, when out of the corner of my eye I noticed the name of the student who would occupy the desk next to Rachel.
There, in bold black letters, was printed Kristin.
I could barely speak. “Rachel,” I finally managed in a whisper, “look! There is a Kristin in your class. And she’s going to sit right next to you!”
“I know, Mom. She’s the one I prayed for.”
The bell rang, and I practically staggered to the back of the classroom as the students began to come in. Rachel sat up straight, folded her hands on her desk, and grinned confidently.
I glued my eyes to that door. Four boys entered. Then a girl with blond hair who took a seat in the front row. Two more boys and then, there she was! She sauntered shyly to the “Kristin” desk, caught Rachel’s welcoming grin, and returned the same.
I probably don’t need to mention that she had brown hair—down to her waist.
Or that everything I really needed to know about prayer I learned in second grade.
Prayer is one of God’s most mysterious and remarkable gifts to us. It is our lifeline to heaven, our means to the most holy of relationships, our opportunity to directly express our praises and desires to the Creator of the universe. There is a power in this simple act that cannot fully be explained, yet can never be denied: “The prayer of a righteous man [or child] is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).
Of course, not every request made on your knees will be answered as quickly or easily as Rachel’s prayer for a friend. But encouraging your family to pray is always the right choice—in good times, in hard times, in moments of anxiety, and during periods of joy. If any gift from our heavenly Father is worth passing on to our children, it is the privilege of prayer. Let’s talk about it this week.
- James C Dobson
“Innocent Petitions” by Robin Jones Gunn. From Mothering by Heart by Robin Jones Gunn (Sisters, Ore.: Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 1996). Robin is the award-winning, bestselling author of over fifty books including the Christy Miller series for teens and the Glenbrooke series. Visit her Web site at www.robingunn.com. Used by permission of the author.