By Ben Talmadge
The area of prayer can be a tricky one. While the idea of talking to God is thought-provoking, it also feels kind of strange to talk to someone you can’t see, hear, or touch. I have found that the times I pray most consistently is when I am keenly aware of needs in my life which are beyond my ability to figure out on my own. Parenting is a great example of this, for it is an area which can often be frustrating and taxing. Here are three lessons I’ve learned about prayer through my own journey of parenting:
Prayer is illustrated by children. Interestingly, Jesus uses the example of children to help explain what God desires from people. He tells his followers, “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). So, why does Jesus use children to explain how to best approach God? Most likely, Jesus is expressing his desire for us to come to him in the same way that little children come to their parents. They do not come with everything figured out but rather simply as who they are in each and every moment. As we observe this in our children, Jesus intends for us to assume this posture before him. Ultimately, he desires to be with us through every parenting experience, as we learn to be honest with him through both the good and bad times.
Prayer matters more than principles. If you peruse any bookstore, you will find no shortage of books which contain a plethora of parenting principles. While some of these can be helpful, we need to be careful not to make too much out of principles. Becoming too dependent on good principles can give us the illusion that we are the ones who are in control of the task of parenting. If we are the ones in control, it means that we are not allowing God to be in control. While principles may help in some moments, there are inevitably moments that come when we have no idea what to do or say. If principles alone could produce successful parenting, then God is not needed. May we learn to pray through our parenting as much as we attempt to apply the right parenting principles.
Prayer challenges our view of God. If many of us are honest, it just doesn’t feel like God is very involved in our lives. Accepting the idea that God is far off is dangerous, because it produces a dogged cynicism in our lives. We begin to think that life is up to us, that God is not really doing a whole lot to help us. And there is nothing in life that can feel more like a struggle to simply survive than parenting. Often times, we may feel like we have no idea what we’re doing as a parent, and it is in these moments that it is imperative for us to understand that God actually desires to be intimately involved in our parenting. In fact, I have found the task of parenting to be the birthplace of prayer in my life, realizing that without God’s personal involvement, my best efforts to parent will ultimately fall short.
Admittedly, prayer can be challenging. But if we can learn to view it as an invitation from God to enter into relationship, then it can become an opportunity to experience relational transformation with our children. Perhaps God is wanting us to learn how to relationally pursue our children as we simply experience how he relationally pursues us.
Ben Talmadge serves on staff of Youth For Christ and Grace Church. He and his wife, Anna Grace, have two children, Jem and Hazel Jane.