1. a (1) : an address (as a petition) to God or a god in word or thought
Over our eleven years of parenting, we've tried various types of prayers with our children. Everything from a basic memorized prayer ("Father in Heaven, hear my prayer...") to the Lord's Prayer to doing Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication to just letting our girls share what's on their hearts.
Several months ago, I began singing prayer with the girls each night. I would sing a line and have them repeat after me. The prayer I most liked to pray when doing this is Psalm 51:1-2. It's a prayer of repentance and I think children (or is this only my children?) have trouble really understanding repentance. Yes, they'll apologize - and often mean it sincerely - but the idea of turning away from their bad choice - of walking away from it never to return - doesn't really register with them. While I doubt they intend to commit the same sins time and again, I also think they can't really imagine being able to not make these little mistakes that litter their lives. So I thought singing a prayer asking God to forgive them for the things they do would help them begin to internalize the concept of repentance. For several days now, I've heard K playing in her room and singing Psalm 51 while she plays. She's clearly learning the words - yes, even words like iniquity and transgression - whether this will change her heart is yet to be seen.
Tonight as I prayed with A & K (who are sleeping in the same room tonight), I decided to sing another scripture to them and have them echo me. I chose Zephaniah 3:17, a verse that I need to remind myself is true. While singing it, I realized that some prayers resonate more with one daughter than another. A was singing along faithfully, but it was K who really liked this one. When I sang "he will rejoice," K threw her arms out in expression. I continued singing, but smiled inwardly at the idea that K doesn't find it difficult at all to imagine God rejoicing over her. As the youngest child, K can readily believe that she is loved, adored, rejoiced over. And I wondered whether A needs that prayer as much as I do. Does she, as the eldest like her mother, need to be reminded that God delights in us? That he's not a taskmaster out to shape us up, but a Father who wants to encourage and nurture us. After I finished the prayer, K said to me, "Is it OK if I make motions to go along with the prayer, Mom? Like this..." and she threw her arms out as wide as they would go. "Yes, honey. That's fine," I said as I headed out the door.
Which daughter needed this prayer more? The one who immediately recognized its truth or the one who may need to hear it dozens of times to really believe it?
Parenting is a job where the seeds we plant take years to bear fruit. One of the terrifying things about parenting pre-teen daughters has been seeing some of the seeds we've unwittingly sown bear some unexpected fruit. How does one yank up the weeds of anxiety and water the blossoms of independence? The short answer is that you really can't do that as the parent. Sure, I can try pulling a weed that I see in my daughter's life, but it's her life. I can't snap my fingers and remove her fears - rational or irrational. All I can really do is check to see whether my own life has those same weeds and get to work tending my own soul.
At our church this week, the Lenten focus is on internal formation - how well are we seeing the gifts God leaves in our paths? Do we rejoice in them or turn a blind eye to them? Tonight's prayer experience encourages me to persevere in praying with my daughters in a variety of ways. While it was clear to me tonight that K liked this prayer, those internal "A-ha!" moments may go unseen by me. Which is why it's my own prayer that the prayers we pray - or sing - with our daughters are also planting seeds that will bear future fruits in their spiritual lives.