Teaching the Child to Pray

Driving home this winter, we pulled in behind an ambulance. It was running without rollers but brightly lit inside.  Inside that tiny mobile theatre hurtling down the freeway, someone was lying on a stretcher and talking to the EMT.

We passed in a blink.  I thought He’en wouldn’t notice, but she did.

She said, “There is someone who is sick in there. I wish I could make it better.”

So we talked about what she could do.

We talked about how, sometimes, there is nothing you can do.

Well, we concluded, there is always one thing we can do. Always, we can pray.

As previously established in this blog, my theology is shaky. Although I’ll confess it’s hard not to get religion when you’re looking at a cut on a child’s eyelid and contemplating everything else that could have gone horribly wrong but didn’t, by the grace of . . . yeah, see? “God” fits pretty well in there, doesn’t it?

But I have undertaken to raise these children. Not just up to age 18, but for always.  There may come a time when they have nothing to hold onto except faith. Faith in something, faith in anything, faith seen-or-unseen.

I strongly believe that I owe them a road map to hope, in case they need it down the line.

So, shamelessly relying on a blurry memory of (I think) The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (or was it As I Lay Dying?) from college AmLit, I told He’en that she could pray.

She could pray for courage for the sick person, and pray for strength for the sick person and their family, and pray for wisdom for all the people helping the sick person so that they would know the best thing to do.

I explained that you don’t just pray for things you want, because God doesn’t work that way. But you can pray for the ability to get through it all, on your own behalf or anyone else’s, because God definitely works that way.

I tried to put it all in five-year-old language.  Then I shut up for a while, letting He’en chew on my little homily.

She was very quiet for some time. Then,

“I blew him some kisses,” she announced with calm confidence.

I nodded, my eyes welling up with Mom-tears, and assured her that, yes, I was sure that would help.

And I made a little prayer of my own: that her faith in something, anything, would always be at least that strong.

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