The lush green rainforest seemed to go on and on without end. Two Philippine eagles were the only things soaring with the airplane in the cloudless blue sky. I peered out the windows at the river that cut through the jungle and wondered what lay beneath the canopy.
Suddenly, the airstrip came into view. I could see a cluster of small huts with woven sides and roofs. The sound of the plane brought children running barefoot out of the houses and down dirt paths to greet the plane.
I was flying into the village to help administer some academic tests to the children of one of the missionary couples who lived and worked among the tribal people. I had to cross the river, cut through a crowd of people who had never seen such a tall woman, and sneak past a guard monkey in order to make it into the house.
The woman who opened the door smiled warmly and hugged me fiercely with willowy brown arms. She tucked her long brown hair behind her ears and welcomed me into her home in an easy manner that made me comfortable at once.
I talked to the children and got the tour of the house and met the monkey properly. I learned that the children were allowed to nail things into their plank walls whenever they wanted. From the looks of things, they did so with great frequency. They often took breaks from school to swim in a river that had been known to harbor crocodiles and venomous snakes.
Their mother kept a hymn book propped up in the kitchen had a reputation for burning dinner because she often got distracted praying. It was a necessary distraction, I learned, because life in the jungle had come with an uncommon cost.
Over dinner, I heard the stories of how God had worked mightily through prayer. Deep in the jungle, with only sporadic contact with an airplane to connect them to civilization, this family had to rely on the power of prayer more than anyone I had ever met. There had been emergency flights and near-death experiences and miraculous answers to panicked prayers.
Prayer was not optional there. It was essential.
This mother had woven it into the fabric of her day to the point that it was nearly impossible to tell when she was praying and when she wasn’t. I got the impression that her heart was always offering intercession because her home was filled with the fragrance of it. She looked at her children like one who had known the joy of standing in for them in the throne room of the King.
I do not know of any other thing that binds a mother’s heart to her children like prayer. When life is challenging and children are difficult, prayer resets the priority and connects with the eternal.
Yet I must confess I have not been so faithful in prayer as that missionary mother. I know it is powerful. I know it will transform my home, and yet I do not do it as often as I ought. It is discouraging to me that I still struggle so much with being still with my God.
Then I am reminded that most of us were not born with a natural desire to pray. It is something that must be learned. If this were not the case, the disciples would not have had to ask how to do it. The fact that I am not yet the woman of prayer I want to be speaks to the fact that I have not taken the time to learn.
Prayer is a discipline. If it is not born out of adversity, it must be born out of obedience.
Sometimes, I feel compelled to pray. I have seen the adversary and I know I am not fit for the fight. Those are times of blessings, in a sense, because then I am happy to draw near to God and to cling to Him for strength and comfort.
Other times, I pray simply because I have been commanded to. I do not always feel like it. I do not always understand that I need it. Sometimes, it feels tedious, like waiting up in the garden with my Lord when I do not realize what is happening and I cannot be bothered to stay awake for it. Sometimes, I sleep in the most critical moments and do not pray at all.
It is a good thing that prayer is not a work of the flesh and the efficacy of my petitions does not depend on my feelings or my abilities.
Prayer is the active work of the slain Christ on my behalf, and that work is always effectual. It is the a power of the Holy Spirit who intercedes for me when my deceived heart and stuttering lips cannot even begin to pray as I should, and that power always transforms. It is the assurance that the One who receives my prayers always wills and works for my best and somehow, simultaneously, for the best of my children.
When I pray for my children, I invite a response from heaven, and I have never known heaven to speak without causing earth to tremble. It is a simple conversation in which I do not speak as I should and am answered in a way I do not deserve from a God who loves me too much to just “fix things.” Prayer is a conversation with a God who reveals, regenerates, redeems, reconciles, and restores the hearts of my family!
It is impossible to come away from a conversation like that without being changed. It changes how I parent, how I feel about my children, and how much I enjoy the process of walking this earth with them. When I do not pray, I do not allow God to work in me in the ways He has ordained. I hang up the phone and prevent His healing words from breaking into the chaos.
If you are struggling to enjoy your children, look at your prayer life. Have you developed the discipline of prayer or are you asleep in the garden? Perhaps it is time to rekindle a conversation with God.
Join us tomorrow for the final day in the series!
For further thought:
1) Someone once said that some things are so important, they’re worth doing poorly. When it comes to prayer, this is true. You may not be disciplined to pray the way you should. Do not let this keep you from praying at all! Even a very short conversation with God is better than silence.
2) The disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray and he responded with the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6:9 and Luke 11:2. If you are overwhelmed with the idea of finding time to pray, you will find it encouraging that this model prayer is so simple and brief. Take the time to pray simply and briefly and trust the Holy Spirit to fill up what is lacking.
3) Prayer is a conversation with God. After you pray, listen. Wait. Watch. How is heaven responding to you?