In a recent blog post (Dear God Time) I shared our family bedtime ritual. The key pieces of our bedtime prayers are in asking my kids who they want to thank God for, who they want to pray for, and what part of the beautiful creation they are thankful for or want to pray for. This has become a time of holy listening for me as I get to hear my daughters’ perspective on what is important, who really needs prayer, and to hear their words of faith and wonder.
One key practice in listening well to their faith is not to put words in their mouths, but to allow them to direct these pieces of prayer. By asking them to initiate I get to hear who the really special people are. My girls have a very short list of people who they are especially thankful to God for, and I have not yet made their list. What I have found is that they list off the people who have gone out of their way to build connection, not the default family members, but the people from outside who have especially invested time and love into them. I have learned through listening to my girls who the treasures are in their lives, the surrogate aunts and grandparents and surrogate grandparents who they know love them. I have come to treasure these friends above and beyond because they love above and beyond.
My girls’ “pray for” list is equally illuminating to me. I get to hear about the bullies and the bullied, the pieces of hurt that I miss, but my kids see. I hear them pray for friends that have moved away, old church folks from my previous call, and I get this incredible window into the compassionate heart of my children. By listening to their compassion I have learned who I might have missed, and how often I miss. I also get to hear them wrestle with things they have heard about that they don’t quite grasp and are confused about in others and by listening to their confusion I can begin to wrestle with my own. Given free rein to bring anything or anyone to God, my girls do, and I have learned a lot about the childlike faith of lament and bringing “owies” to be kissed by the presence of God.
The last piece of listening really taps into childlike wonder at things we adults stopped noticing a long time ago. During our prayers for the beautiful world there was a six month period of time in which one of my girls was thankful for the clouds that give us rain, snow, sleet, hail, and shade from the sun. For how the clouds turn pretty colors and make fun shapes. Six months of wonder at something I occasionally swear at. What a perspective shift it is to be given the gift of listening to wonder and awe. Over time there were thanks for dogs, mountains, waterfalls, dogs, forests, sheesh dad take a hint dogs, beaches, and any body of water larger than 3 inches.
We tapped into that wonder when at her first time to the ocean our youngest looked out with wide eyes and shouted “Puddle!” and prayed for that huge “puddle” for weeks.
I have found that listening to the prayers of my children has opened my eyes to a joyous wonder in being a child in God’s loving arms. Sometimes I even get to model that love, but most awesomely, I get to rest in that love as I listen to the prayers of my children.