Am I the only one who has ever been bored with prayer? I love it and dread it all at the same time. It’s so hard to keep my mind focused sometimes, and I want to say enough but not too much. I want to be respectful and yet relational…there are just so many things to keep in mind. The truth is, God is mighty and powerful-beyond what we can imagine! But He is our father, and He just wants to talk and hear our heart.
I see this conflict brewing in my oldest son. He loves to pray. He prays for everything. But recently, he’s just been going through the motions. Ugh! I hate that! I want to be genuine and to teach my kids to do the same. I don’t want to do something just to do it! I want us all to be intentional.
It figures…this is the month I have personally devoted to praying for specific things for my kids’ lives. Maybe that’s why I’m starting to notice that at their very young ages, prayer is becoming dutiful, not worshipful. Pause. Heart check. Back up. Model instead of teach…how’s my prayer life? Do they even see it?
Sometimes, my biggest inspirations come from wandering around a craft store. By that, I don’t exactly mean craft inspirations. I find that being amidst creative materials, raw in their form, help me go back to basic materials and find a beautiful solution to a life problem. I knew I needed something tangible for my hands-on little men to really grasp what prayer is and hopefully put some excitement in it. Then, I stumbled upon a 4 1/2 foot foam tree. That’s it! This was exactly what we needed! Thus, our prayer tree was born!
Just outside the boys’ bedrooms was an empty wall. We assembled the tree and placed it on the wall. Then we made a ton of foam leaves. I sat down with a stack of leaves, a sharpie, and a cup of coffee and I spent an afternoon asking the boys what we should be praying for. Wow, did we have a great discussion about prayer! This was a lesson in and of itself. They had no idea that they can ask for big and small things. We talked about how God loves to hear whatever is on our hearts-anything at all! We all agreed that we love talking to each other and telling each other everything: funny things, sad things, confusing things. Well, how much more, then, does our heavenly Father love to hear our hearts?
We took a whole afternoon discussing our leaves. We talked about who we could pray for, who was sick and who was lonely. We talked about upcoming events, like the presidential election, that we can be praying for. They got out our stack of Voice of the Martyrs magazines and we started writing down international needs and outcries. We got silly and added things like snow in winter, going to Disney World, and lots of candy on Halloween. If it’s important to them, it’s important to God.
(This was our first set of leaves...we added many more as the days went on!)
Here’s the greatest part: when a prayer is answered, we are planning to take down the leaf and put up an apple instead. When we pray, we bear fruit. We were able to put up our first apple this week, and it was like Christmas morning over here! We were faithful and we saw God at work. They are hungry for more apples now.
It was such a simple idea, and yet it has changed our attitude about prayer. The boys love lying on their floor, staring at the tree as we talk to God about all our loved ones and people around the world who need a blessing.
Prayer can become stale if we let it. Like anything else, it can feel like a ritual. When it starts to feel this way, it starts to lose its authenticity and its effectiveness. Soon, we’re operating in our own strength instead of leaning on the source of our strength. I’d much rather pause, reposition our hearts, and enjoy time with our daddy who loves to hear us laugh and cry.