My daughter has Down syndrome and there have been many things that have been difficult for her to learn. From walking and talking to education and life-skills she has had many struggles along the way. Every time I find something successful I long to share it with others who might find it helpful. That was the entire reason I started this blog. However, this post is not about how I taught my daughter to pray. Instead, it is about how my daughter taught me to pray!
Prayer is a popular topic to study. The Scripture has much to say about it and yet I find myself struggling to do it. Oh, I sit and bow my head just fine. I even have chunks of my day carved out for just that purpose, but what do I do when I am there?
One thing I do is talk. Prayer is a conversation and I am good at that part, but it's the quiet listening I am not so good at. I also struggle with what to say. I have my list and I go down it. I have loved ones who need salvation and friends who are sick. I pray for my pastor, my family, missionaries, our finances, for wisdom, and mercy but when I say it over and over again it sounds like a list of demands rather than a conversation with the Almighty.
Gess, however, seems to know what to say. Listening to her pray has been one of the most powerful lessons on prayer. Of course, much of what she says are things she has heard other people pray. The whole, "bless the food to the nourishment of our bodies" is one of them, but sometimes there are things she prays that I know are simply from her heart. Here are a few things that Gess has taught me through her own prayers.
1. You can pray for someone more than once
I am on the prayer chain for our church and when I get a call I am generally faithful to pray for them. I usually do it right away so I won't forget later. Gess, however, never forgets. In fact she continues to pray for them over and over again. It is not uncommon to hear her mention them for the next several days at our meals. Every time it is Gess' turn to pray, she will pray for that request or some other friend she knows is sick. I sure wish I had the sensitivity to always keep those requests at the forefront of my thoughts so I would pray for them more often.
2. Pray about what you read in His Word.
I have been taught to pray through the Scripture and I make it a point to do that. Again, I put aside time and read a passage for the purpose of praying through it. Gess, however will pray about Scripture all the time. At our meal it is not uncommon to hear her say things like "Thank you God for making dinosaurs on Day 6" or what ever she has been reading about lately. If she is working on a memory verse it will mention it in her prayer too. That seems to come natural to her. I know she certainly didn't learn it from me!
3. Read His Word often so that you will pray about it.
Gess not only studies God's Word for homeschool, but she will read it on her own. Whatever latest topic she is on will spark her to look up Scripture. From reading in Job about the Behemoth, Exodus to learn about Moses, or Matthew to learn about the birth of Jesus, Gess will study. She does not do this to show herself approved but because she loves to do it!
4. Pray about what is on your mind.
Gess has prayed about video games, sports, and other things that I would never dare pray for. While we have talked with her about the importance of making prayer a real conversation with God, she has made me realize that its a good thing that she wants God in on what she is doing. It has been helpful when she is doing something wrong. Once we point out what God's Word says about it, she knows to pray for God to help her do the right thing. The Bible says to pray about everything (Philippians 4:6-7) and Gess takes that very literally.
5. Pray the moment you realize you have sinned.
Explaining the significance of sin has been hard to do. It is hard for any child, and even adults to understand consequences that we don't immediately see and feel. There have been times when we were in the middle of explaining to Gess why she was wrong when she immediately bowed her head and started praying to God! She cuts off the middle man and goes straight to the source! After that we usually hug but she still faces consequences for her actions so there is no motivation to simply pretend like she is praying. To her, its very real. After her prayer she seems to feel better and is truly repentant. Oh I wish I could be like that!
This is why it was no surprise to me that Gess was voted the "most prayerful" at her camp last summer. In fact, when I heard that it only confirmed that her desire and love for prayer comes from her heart. She doesn't need us to remind her to pray. On the contrary, she is usually the one reminding us.