Last night my son wandered out of his room and down the hall at 9:15 pm. He’s been making a habit of going to bed a little later every night lately (his bed time is supposed to be 8:30) and I was a little frustrated. But when I saw the look of fear in his eyes I figured he’d had a bad dream.
“Daddy, Satan is making me think bad thoughts,” he said in a concerned voice.
“Okay, what kind of thoughts?” I asked him.
“About me and Alya’s deaths,” he whispered, holding back tears.
We talked for a couple minutes about the power of Jesus to calm our fears and even our hope of eternal life, and then we prayed together.
I hate to admit it, but when he headed back to his room I fully expected him to be back, once again terrified by thoughts of death. Instead, when I went to check on him ten minutes later, he was fast asleep.
In the morning I checked with him to see if he’d had any more disturbing thoughts or bad dreams and he simply responded, “no, we prayed about it, remember.”
We can chalk his response up to childlike faith that hasn’t gone through the fire of unanswered prayer, and I suppose there’s something to that, but he has prayed prayers that have not been answered. He and I have had conversations a couple times when he couldn’t quite understand why his prayers seemed to fall on deaf ears. Despite that, he walked away from our impromptu prayer meeting on the couch with full confidence that there would be no more problems and he’d fall asleep.
This episode slapped me in the face with the realization that I can easily begin believing prayer doesn’t make any difference. Too much evil in the world. But more than that, too many times where it seems God has his headphones in. Yet, when my eight-year-old’s faith forces me to reflect on the prayers we’ve prayed–that we’d find a house near work and school, that we’d connect quickly with neighbors, that my son would become friends with the kids who picked on him the first week of school, that we’d find a community of faith where we’d be able to be woven into the fabric of its life–I realize a supposed lack of answered prayer is really my failure to open my eyes.
This is important because a lack of faith severely limits my willingness to pray bold, risky, God-honoring prayers. If I stick to “help us to have a good day” or “bless so-and-so” I can find a way to say those prayers were answered (I mean, the day wasn’t great, but I didn’t get hit by a car…). Not to mention that I will forget that I even prayed them because they are so bland. And in the midst of that I will fail to experience what God has for me, my family, my neighbors, my church, my city, and our world.
Lord, give me the faith and courage to pray in line with the vision you have for the world.
So in this I’m trying to be more like my 8-year-old. I want to join him in having the same heart and desire as David when he wrote in Psalm 5,
In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.