Friday, August 05, 2005

A Toddler's Prayer

The story is told of a family with 2 little girls who were living in South Africa. Deciding to go on a 300 hundred mile journey to visit friends for the weekend, the car was filled with gas, and off the family went. How the days flew by as the family visited their friends, and the children played with one another. On the way home, the gas began to run low. Frightened, the adults watched the gas gage, wondering whether they would make it home. You see, at that time in South Africa fuel could not be purchased Monday through Friday between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., nor on weekends. Yet here the family was with a dangerously low tank of gas. Still, it seemed that by driving slowly, they might make it home. But this was not to be. In the dark, with only the visibility of the high beams, the father took a wrong and the family ran out of gas in a deserted industrial area. There were no persons in sight, no houses or cars, only factory after factory. Wordlessly, the family looked at one another and decided to pray. The adults prayed first, then the 6-year old, and finally the 2-year old. Because the toddler could not talk well, all she said was "Au-au, au-au, au-au. Amen." But if you could have seen the _expression on her face as she prayed her simple and wordless prayer -- you would have been amazed. She prayed with such sincerity, such seriousness, that it a was joy to behold. When the family opened their eyes, there before them was the direct answer to their prayers. A young couple who attended the family's church had been driving around when they suddenly decided to drive to that area, and then turn around and go home. What a shock it was for them to see this family they knew, stranded right in front of them. Upon learning the source of the trouble, the young couple willingly siphoned fuel from their vehicle into the van. With the difficulty resolved, both families made their way home praising God. Its amazing isn't it, that God not only hears, understands and answers our prayers, but that He even responds to the prayer of toddlers who may not speak intelligibly. What a wonderful God!

The scripture says in Romans 8:26 that, "the Spirit helps our infirmities, for we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but that the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." As we examine this scripture, we find that one of the roles and functions of the Holy Spirit is to help us when we are by definition, "weak or frail." (the word "infirmities" can be understood to mean "weak or frail). How thoughtful of the Father to provide for our needs before we are even aware. How grateful you and I can be for the intercession of the Holy Spirit on our behalf (according to the will of the Father). In our story, was the family 'weak and frail?' Yes, they were, for they were in a dangerous situation -- alone and without help. Through their prayers, and the Holy Spirit's intercession, help was sent.

If we look at our scripture a little further, we'll notice that it says that 'we don't know what we should pray for...' and yet it implies that we should pray. Referring to our story, while the family knew to pray for deliverance, the toddler didn't did she? She didn't know they were out of gas, and that they were stranded Yet her prayer was answered just the same as was the rest of the family's. How amazing, that even though we don't know what we should pray for, our prayers are still answered, because of the Spirit's groaning on our behalf.

While reading Romans 8:26, I found it interesting to note the word "ought" in the text, and I wondered why it was there. What could it possibly mean in light of
praying. Upon looking up the word "ought" in the dictionary, this meaning of the text became clear as such: while we don't know the things that we should pray for, we 'should' know them. How can I say this? Because the word "ought," according to the dictionary (The American Century Dictionary) is an "auxiliary verb which expresses duty; rightness; advisability; or probability." In other words it is our duty and right for us to know what it is that we should pray for. The question is, does the Holy Spirit help us if we don't even know what is in our hearts to pray? Well, let's see. In our story, the toddler prayed seriously and sincerely without words. Although she knew that something was wrong and needed fixing, she did not know that she should petition the Lord for deliverance. Can it be said that she prayed with full understanding? I doubt it. And yet God in His mercy and compassion, heard those prayers of the stranded family, and sent a couple to aid them. God is so kind, that not only did He send help, but He sent persons that the family knew, and attended church with. God's intervention served to answer not only the family's prayers for deliverance, but the toddler's prayers as well. You see, it's likely that although the toddler probably did not understand the need for divine deliverance from the unsafe situation, that she did sense the family's need for relieve from the anxiety that the situation caused. Her five senses were probably in working order, and she could perceive the anxiety in her family's voice and as well as see the expressions of fear in their faces. As such, she groaned or babbled her prayer for relief from the stressful situation she was observing. Friends, God is so wise that He knows the things we are praying for, even before we utter them.

A question that often follows comments on God's Omniscience is "if He knows everything then why should we pray?" The best answer for our question can be found in Steps to Christ on page 94. It says: Christ's humanity made prayer a necessity and a privilege. He found comfort and joy in communion with His Father. And if the Saviour of all men, the Son of God, felt the need of prayer, how much more should feeble sinful mortals feel the necessity of fervent, constant prayer." If Christ Himself depended on the Word and prayer to remain connected to His Father, know His Father's will, and express His needs and desires, how much more should we. If you doubt that Christ expressed His needs and desires to the Father through prayer, remember that He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane that His cup of suffering would pass. And later on He prayed that His followers would be one with Him and the Father. Its a fact folks, Christ prayed about His needs to His Father -- not merely silently, but out loud -- so that the disciples (and we who follow) might know that He believed that the Father always heard and answered Him. (He wants us to
believe the same about our petitions).

If we doubt, and many of us are tempted to, that the Father hears and answers us, just remember I John 5:14, 15. It says:

I John 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us:
I John 5:15 And if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.

So resistant and reluctant are we to open up our true selves to our Father, that we neglect prayer. One result of that fear of exposing ourselves and being vulnerable, is that we don't even dare ask God for the things that we need or desire. Without asking, we can't receive. Yet, God is respectful, so much so, that even though He knows our longings, He will not interfere unless we desire Him to. Instead, He awaits our requests that He may answer them with good things. God has a storehouse of blessings that He has not given, because the blessings were not asked for. Despite this, He is more willing to give us good gifts than parents are willing to give good things to their children (Matt. 7:11). While some folks get hung up on having to reveal themselves to God, others are often hung up on the "if we ask according to His will," part. They feel that they must know if their request is God's will before they even ask. But how is it possible to know what God's will is if we do not ask Him?

In this great day of Atonement, Christ is prompting us through the Holy Spirit to allow Him to examine our hearts and reveal to us our hidden desires and sins. This may be one of the reasons we are so reluctant to pray -- we're afraid of having our selfishness exposed. Well friends, He already knows we are selfish, and we certainly won't become any less selfish by ourselves, if left to ourselves. Because Christ took human nature upon Himself, and was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin, He makes a great mediator, and an understanding High Priest! He knows our physical, mental, and emotional frailties. He knows our temptations and even our secret desire to take His place; yet He loves us still. There is nothing we cannot take to God. He will not shun us, nor leave us (unless we resist and shove Him away). Never will He abandon us because of our sinfulness. He will only leave because we have told Him definitively that we will have no part of Him -- forever. What a great, merciful, thoughtful and loving God we serve!

Friends, if you're reluctant to believe that, just read the scripture (Luke 18:16) and follow up with the chapter in Desire of Ages where Christ is telling the disciples "Let the children come unto Me... ." You know, very few people who genuinely love children (and pets) are hostile and judgmental. Children and pets stay away from people like that. And if children and pets loved Jesus (who of course is the express image of God the Father and the Spirit), then He must certainly be gentle and welcoming, for children gravitate to persons like that. Last but certainly not least, Christ said that the kingdom of heaven is composed of persons who are like little children. We adults usually interpret this to mean that we must become trusting and forgive others easily. While that's true, did you ever notice that children ask adults for the things that they desire? Even if they know its selfish, they still ask -- even though they think they might not get what they want, they ask. Our Father says He's adopted us into His family, we're His heirs, His children. If we really believe the scripture, let's not be reluctant, let's ask the Father for our heart's desire. After all, He is (more than) willing to give exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ask or think. Hey, I'm asking, how about you?

Maria Greaves-Barnes


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