Early in my second pregnancy, complications arose. The doctor ordered bed rest and said only time will tell if I was going to miscarry. In anguish I pleaded with God to save this baby. I even began to bargain with God. If You will save this baby, I will… I will pray more, read my Bible more, teach Sunday School. The list of “I will” grew daily during my prayer times.
One week after I was placed on bed rest, I had a miscarriage. I was devastated. Questions flooded my mind. Why had God not answered my prayers to let this baby live? Will I ever be able to have another child? How could a miscarriage be in God’s will for my life? I was angry with God and hurt that He had not saved my baby.
In my grief I sought God constantly in Bible reading and prayer. I was searching for answers from Him. In this period of despair, I began to feel God’s comforting presence wash over me. He led me to Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” I realized that this side of heaven I may never know all the answers to my questions during that time of sorrow. As John Powell in Seasons of the Heart said so succinctly, “The great and infinite God asks a very limited and finite you and me: ‘Can you—will you—trust me?’”
At 29 I did not know that God’s plan for me would involve serving on church staffs as Preschool Ministries Director. In the last 20 years of serving on church staffs, I have walked with many moms through the waters of miscarriage. Like Paul, I can say, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). While God did not answer my prayers the way I wanted Him to, He did prepare me to comfort others, and He led me to a great principle of the Christian life-trusting Him in each and every circumstance.
In Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby writes about spiritual markers. He says “a spiritual marker identifies a time of transition, decision, or direction when I clearly know that God has guided me.” My first big spiritual maker happened in the summer of my eleventh year while I attended church camp. The theme for the camp was on prayer. My counselor, Aunt Peggy (all the counselors were called aunts or uncles) lead daily devotions on prayer and our relationship with God. It was there in that primitive camp cabin that I learned that I can have a personal relationship with God and Jesus and that relationship is strengthened through prayer.
Up until that camp, my prayers mainly consisted of a recited mealtime blessing and a bedtime prayer of asking God to bless my parents, my sisters, my grandparents, my aunts, my uncles, and a boatload of cousins. After camp, I realized I could talk to God about anything! I had two sisters, and I had always wanted a baby brother. So beginning at camp, I prayed for a baby brother. Philippians 4:6 had become real to me as I let my requests be known to God.
After coming home from camp, I announced to my parents that I was praying for a baby brother. My parents said, “That may not happen,” but I kept on praying for a baby brother. Eight weeks later my parents announced that my mom was going to have a baby, but it would probably be another girl. On February 23, 1966, my baby brother was born. When Daddy told me mom had a boy, I said, “Of course. God heard my prayer and answered me.” What a powerful lesson God taught me that year!
“The only hope in making a long-lasting difference for God is to learn to pray”* How do children learn to pray? They first learn to pray by hearing their parents pray. Children as young as one and two can be taught to pray.
Prayer is talking to God. When praying with preschoolers, use simple words and phrases your child can understand. As parents integrate prayer as a natural part of the day, preschoolers learn to turn to God to heal their booboos, pray for their sick dog, and express thanks to God for the macaroni and cheese at dinner.
Avoid teaching preschoolers memorized prayers. While the “Superman Blessing” and “Now I Lay Me” sound cute when preschoolers recite them, they do not teach children to talk to God about the concerns of their hearts. Encourage your child to use his/her own words. Give them a sentence prayer to complete such as, “Thank You, God, for …. “, “God help my friend ….”, or “God help me to …” Model praying spontaneous prayers throughout the day. Prayer is not just for mealtime and bedtime. God’s creation gives you many opportunities to express thankfulness to Him. When you are outside with your child, pray, “Thank You, God, for the pretty flowers” or “Thank You, God, for eyes to see the rainbow.”
Pray “on the spot” prayers. When your child comes to you with a problem or a worry, pray right then. Integrate prayer into discipline by praying for God to help your child be kind to his/her sibling or for God to forgive your child for wrong choices or actions. Teach older preschoolers the different kinds of prayer: praise, thanksgiving, prayers for people who are in need, prayers for oneself and family.
God instructs Jeremiah to “call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you” (Jeremiah 29:12). By modeling and teaching children to pray, parents are laying the foundation for a lifetime of calling out to God through prayer.
- Ronnie Floyd, How to Pray
Jana Magruder, Director of Kids Ministry Publishing of LifeWay has written an insightful article entitles Why Kids Need to See Their Parents Serve. I learned to serve the church and Christ from the model of my own parents and their example of servant’ hearts spoke louder than any speech. Read Jana’s article here.