There’s a toddler dashing about our house now, a skewed-hair mess of sweet and sass. So I’ve learned to do many new things.
How to distract him with something else fun, because he can’t be banging thunder on the piano while siblings are in online class? Check. How to persuade in a few more bites of eggs, because despite what he may think he can’t survive on just watermelon? Check. How to change an overly-full diaper on laughing child who refuses to stay still? Double check.
Though my parents do take care of most all of Xan’s needs, I’ve still learned many practical physical skills from this little brother of mine. But sometimes he teaches me spiritual skills as well.
Because one of the things little ones are best at is needing help. And when they need help, they come to adults for aid. Whether they’re hurt, hungry, mad, or just want that one toy down, they go straight to the only people who can answer their needs. And I think there are several thing we can learn from them about coming to God with our needs.
1: You’re Dependent
Xan very much likes to be independent. He gets into moods where he decides he’s a big kid, and can do everything on his own. He wants to walk up and down (steep) stairs by himself. He wants to go exploring outside by himself. He wants to build Lego jets by himself. But he can’t. And while it may take a few minutes for this almost-three-year-old to acknowledge it, he knows that it’s safer, it’s more fun, and it produces better jets when he asks for help. So he asks.
He needs help with most everything; putting on shoes, going down the slide, getting his bottle; so he comes to us for everything.
He knows he needs help with everything, so he asks about everything.
And we like to imagine that we’re independent too. We have secure jobs, good GPA’s, nice homes; and think that we’re big people, and can do everything on our own. We can walk through life by ourselves. We explore all those things we’ve ever wanted by ourselves. We can build those careers ourselves. But we can’t.
And often it takes us so very long to acknowledge this. Oh, we know that there are some ‘big things’ we can’t do, so we pray about that sick relative and about slavery and about the elections, but our own everyday lives, decisions, and choices? Nah, we can do that ourselves. But we need to realize — we can’t do anything on our own.
We’ve all heard that motivational verse, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me” (Phil 4:13), but do you realize what its inverse is, what it implies?
Without me ye can do nothing. (John 15:5)
We can’t do anything of this without Christ. He’s holding the very atoms of reality together, He’s the enforcer of all the laws of nature. Any semblance of control that we may have — is an illusion. We can’t do any of this on our own.
We need help with everything, so we should ask about everything.
2: Your Requests Don’t Have to Be Pretty (Or Even Coherent)
It’s hard enough learning how to talk, especially if English is semi your second language. But, my littlest brother is still a very vocal child. That is to say, he’s good at being heard, but not as good with using words. He has the normal few words for children his age to ask for what he wants; no, yes, up, down, jet, boat, why; as well as signs to say please and thank you and more and all the such sort. Yet he still makes himself understood just as much as us older ones.
But never has he come to me and said, “Sister dear, I am hungry and enjoy the taste of Cheetos, may you please bestow several upon me?” Nope, not once. (Shocking, isn’t it?) No, his normal communication when he sees a bag of Cheetos is to run over, point, open his mouth wide, and make hungry, insistent baby bird noises.
That’s not eloquent. It’s not elaborate. It doesn’t even have words. But it works. Because he’s simply asking, he’s simply trying, and I know what he means.
So why then do we sometimes think that we must talk in this eloquent way to God.? We think we must sound like those Puritan prayers, or else we’re no good. But that’s not true. Can we sometimes pray like that, with these long, deep, masterpieces? Of course, that’s lovely! But it’s not necessary. Even the Lord’s Prayer itself is only five verses long.
We are God’s children, and children are not expected nor required to be eloquent. Sometimes are petitions are little more than sobs of “God, please!” Sometimes we don’t even know what to pray, but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. (Rom 8:26) But it works. Because we’re simply asking, we’re simply trying, and God knows what we mean, and what we need.
Our prayers don’t have to be lovely, or poetic, or amazing. We must simply ask.
3: Your Persistence Works
When it comes to the red-headed stubbornness, this toddler has just as much as the rest of the family. Pair that with his good memory, and you end up with hour-long hunts for that one toy he wants. “Jet!” He’ll cry, running about the house. We’ll try any and every toy we have to satisfy him, but they aren’t right. “Is it this Lego jet?” He shakes his head. “How about this red one?” Vehement shaking again. “Oh, do you mean this one?” “No!” He says, and runs off to find it, that one specific jet that he remembers. He will be satisfied with nothing else. He won’t be distracted, he won’t be swayed.
And that reminds me how God Himself told us to ask.
Jesus told a parable of a widow who continued to pester and pester an unjust judge, until finally the judge did what she wished, just to be rid of her. He points out, if the unjust judge did so simply because of persistence, will not God do better? God is our Father, who delights in us, pouring gifts upon us every morning. But He also says ye have not because ye ask not. (James 4:2) We need to be persistent in prayer.
Now, that isn’t to say we’ll always get what we want. The very next verse says, Ye ask, and receive not, because ye asks amiss, that ye consume it upon your lusts. (James 4:3) Sometimes we don’t give Xan what he wants because he just wants sweets. But we may also tell him no because we have something better for him, or to keep him safe. (So we shouldn’t throw a temper tantrum when the answer is no.)
God’s answer won’t always be yes, sometimes it’s no, and sometimes it’s wait. But He still tells us to pray without ceasing, to pray consistently.
He told us to, so we ask.
Again and again Jesus tells us to be like little children. Perhaps one of the reasons why is because they live so absolutely on faith. Faith that others will help them, faith that they will be provided for, faith that they will be kept safe. They know that they are dependent for everything, that they will be heard, and that they can ask as much as they want, so they do just that — ask.
So I think we should try to do the same. Pray. Pray without ceasing, praying for everything, pray about everything. Because our Father loves us, and wants us to ask.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)