Continuing our Month of Gratitude series, here are three things I’m thankful for and the story behind it.
1. Impromptu gathering with neighbors around the campfire, roasting sticky sweet treats
2. Fresh tomatoes from the garden, eaten whole, juice dripping from hands
3. The spontaneous prayers of children
I grab a roll of toilet tissue for children’s prayer time and tell each child to take one to five squares from the roll. Then I explain the Sunday School game: for every square they take, they have to pray for that many people during the week. One kid, holding six squares, says, “Why didn’t you tell us that before we took the toilet paper?” evidently annoyed that he now had all these people to pray for.
The kids pray lovely prayers, telling God about their brother’s bad choices or their dying grandma. Everyone is very serious and I wonder what’s come over them.
Maybe they’ve realized that this prayer thing is the real business of life. And us adults, we forget that small fact nearly every day.
After the whole circle prays, I go to each child, lay my hand on his head, and pray for him. There is this great hush in the room. Even the boys, who never want to sit in their seats but prefer rolling on the floor instead, are unusually still.
There is something special about being touched and prayed for at the same time, as if we recognize the connection between words and self. Soul and body. External and internal.
After I say Amen, several of the kids rush over to where I am sitting on the floor, putting their hands on my head, and pray for me, unexpectedly blessing me with their words. Their hands cover my head like a prayer shawl.
Jesus said, Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them. So let them say prayers. Let them serve and love and give.
When we do that, we will marvel at their response: their faith, their simple faith, the way they bless us in unexpected ways.
Anne Lamott says “Laughter is carbonated holiness,” but so are their prayers. They didn’t second guess or wonder if this was the right thing to do. They didn’t even ask. They just went for it.
When we grow up into our adult ways of thinking—of second guessing, overanalyzing, rationalizing—we should seek those moments when we respond with simple faith, spontaneously, without thinking too much whether it’s the right thing to do.
We should break the darkness with light, with an Amen, spoken out loud. Those words of prayer, taking flight, growing into something more, becoming a salve to the wounded, a blessing to the weak, a prayer for those who need it most.