Prayer can be a really hard concept to teach to adults, let alone children. Ian’s been asking some tough questions lately. Particularly at Christmas, when he asked why he couldn’t see God in the nativity scene set up in the lobby at his preschool. When I tried to explain that he could see God in the form of baby Jesus, I got the side eye. Obviously I didn’t do an adequate job attempting to explain the holy trinity to my four-year-old. But heck, the trinity is a tough idea for me to wrap my head around. Luckily we’ve asked Whitney, one of the pastors at our church, to give it a go explaining this idea to Ian. You know, since it’s kind of his job to teach this stuff.
Several weeks ago, one of Whitney’s Sunday sermons focused on prayer. I greatly enjoy listening to him speak, but I know it can be tough for a little boy to make it through an entire message. Little did I know that we’d have an opportunity to put this sermon into practice so quickly.
After church ended, we bundled up and took off to Standing Stone State Park do a little hiking through the snow. The snow swirled around us while the trees swayed in the wind as we set out to climb down the mountain through the safety zone. About halfway into our descent, I told Ian that he could let Mogwai go for a little while as Mogwai was ready to stretch his legs out a bit more than Ian can manage. For about a quarter of a mile, Mogwai stayed right with us, and would run up into the trees and back to us as dogs delight in doing. And then a squirrel ran across Mogwai’s path.
My dad has always said that the time to hunt with dogs for squirrels is when the leaves are off the trees. We got to see this in action first hand as Mog ran to the tree that the squirrel zipped up, then from tree to tree as the squirrel jumped across branches, right up the side of the mountain, and then over the ridge line braying as he went. Meanwhile, the wind continued to howl and drown out our voices as called for him. As we continue to hike, not wanting to stop and get cold, hoping that the our dumb dog would return to us, we saw more and more signs of the wild hogs that have invaded this area. Trees were coated in red clay as high as three-foot up, and roots exposed in the side of the hill. Pigs cause such destruction to the landscape. We made it to the creek at the bottom of the mountain, then decided to turn around and head back up the trail to see if Mogwai might retrace his steps and run into us.
It was at this point that our little family started snapping at each other. Brinn stressed over Mogwai, and snapped at me for letting him go. Our legs were burning from the incline and our lungs gulped air from our lack of conditioning. We all guzzled water from the nalgene bottle we carried. Ian wanted to help find Mogwai and started yelling for him, which irritated Brinn who was trying to whistle and listen for Mog. Chaco became fed up with all of us and barked at us, or squirrels, or the wind for all we know. Then Ian moved into doom and gloom mode. He complained and carried on that something happened to his puppy dog. A hog got him. A hunter shot him. He’s lost forever in the woods. Eventually between Brinn’s snapping and Ian’s commiserating, I finally lost my patience.
In exasperation I finally spun around and let Ian have it. “Baby, complaining will do absolutely nothing to help your doggie right now. If you want to be productive, the only way you can help is to pray that Jesus will bring your puppy-dog back to you. “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength” (Psalms 8:2). And in that instance, my four-year-old shamed us by doing the one thing that his parents should have shown him and led by example. Ian stopped in the middle of the trail and he prayed. “Dear Jesus. Please bring Mogwai back to me.”
Do you know that not five minutes later, that silly dog popped up out of the tree line and came running down the trail to us? After wrapping his disobedient dog up in a bear hug, Ian stopped to pray again. “Jesus, thank you for bringing Mogwai back to us.”
Now when we ask Ian if he would like to say the blessing at meal times, he usually asks us if he can pray his favorite prayer. It has nothing to do with thanking God for his food, but everything to do with thanking him for bringing that goofy dog back to us a month ago. If you ask Ian if he wants to pray, he will gladly say yes, then launch into his favorite prayer: “Jesus, thank you for bringing Mogwai back to me.”
Today we’ll be teaching a new prayer. Mogwai’s safe return can remain his favorite prayer, but we have a friend with a special request for prayers for his sweet grand baby. Ian now believes with us in the power of prayer. The Apostle John wrote, “Now this is the confidence we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14–15). John also wrote, “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22).
So, dear friends, I ask tonight that those among you who keep confidence in Him, that you join us in prayer for healing and health for baby Breaker, and help us all see as Ian has seen, the power of prayer. Our savior can hear the seemingly insignificant request of a little boy missing his dog. Now let’s talk to God about a family praying for the health of their child.