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The Prayer of a Child
Several months ago, my pastor began holding prayer meetings for about a half hour before Wednesday night services. He calls all who wish to come up to the altar or front pews and will call on people to pray aloud while the others pray silently. Wednesdays are always good nights for this since the children are in AWANA TM and most of them would not be able to sit through a half hour long prayer meeting with their eyes closed.
Tonight was a special event. It was the first time since the start of school that I was able to attend Wednesday service, since normally I volunteer as the boys' AWANA leader. But tonight we had a guest speaker come and Pastor wanted all the children in the service, even for the prayer meeting. The AWANA children sat with their parents or whomever they came with and the children that attended our church's school came dressed in their navy blue polo logo shirts and khaki bottoms and sat in the front two rows, so that Pastor could show off the pride of the church.
To keep the children quiet during the service, we sat a girl between each boy to keep them from playing with each other or making jokes. I sat between two of my favorite boys, seven-year-old Brendan on my right, five-year-old Tucker on my left. We had about ten minutes before the service would start and we began messing around, blowing in each other's ears and picking fun at each other.
The music began and Pastor, Bro. Rich and our guest preacher came in from the side door. We stood and began singing "The Sweet By and By"; Brendan and I shared a secret smile, each knowing that the other was thinking of an inside joke involving that song. Pastor walked to the pulpit and announced the offering. I reached into my wallet and pulled a one dollar bill and handed it to Brendan; then I reached into the zippered pocket and pulled out eighty cents in odd change and passed it out to the children beside me, plus some odd pennies and asked Patrick (who sat beside Brendan) if he wanted some; he shrugged and the money was passed onto Lexie. The offering plate came and went, coins being clanked into the bottom of the wooden plate, causing the usher to smile at how simply dropping a quarter into the plate could bring such joy.
He moved onto the next pew and before we knew it, Pastor was back at the pulpit and had opened his Bible to the book of Acts. He read several verses, then spoke on the importance of prayer. He gave an open invitation for any member or visitor to come to the altar and pray along with him. As the people came, he and Bro. Rich and the guest speaker knelt before their chairs. Bro. Rich opened the floor and then Pastor called on Dr. "Jay", then his wife, Christi, and several others.
As they prayed, it was my job to make sure that the children would not disrupt. They knew from school that for a public prayer, you must keep your eyes closed out of respect to the speaker and to God. Of course, with prayer being thirty minutes long, we were slightly slack with the rule, only making sure they didn't speak or cause a disturbance.
Four or five men and women had prayed and when either Travis or Bro. Clyde, I believe, began praying, I heard a small voice beside me. At first I thought it was Tucker whispering to Jordan or Sam beside him, or possibly he was talking to himself. I opened my eyes and looked beside me, preparing to warn him about talking…
But that was when his soft-spoken words made their way into my eardrums. As whomever it was continued praying, Tucker—imitating the many men and women in our church—agreed aloud with the man praying, by announcing, for my ears only, “Yes, Lord! Yes, dear God! Yes!” every few moments, in unison with the seasoned veterans within the congregation.
I watched him for several moments, smiling silently to myself at the innocence of the young boy. He had grown up, from within his mother’s womb to these first few months of Kindergarten, within the walls of that church, within the protection of that congregation. He had grown up listening to the sounds of Pastor’s shouts and his fist pounding the wood of the pulpit.
But he had also grown up listening to the adults pray. He had listened and, although he may not quite understand what he’s agreeing to when he proclaims, “Yes, Lord!” as the men pray, he does know one thing: God is listening.
At one point during the sermon, as the guest preacher came to speak, I wanted to start laughing. He told the story of how his granddaughter had once called him at his office just to put him on hold. When she came back on the line, she told him that was all she wanted and then hung up. The speaker said he contemplated this for quite a while, wondering how his granddaughter had the audacity to call him on a busy work day just to put him on hold. Then he realized it: she was imitating the person she loved. Her mother would frequently call upon him and put him on hold while she went to do other things. This little girl would watch her mother and try to be just like her.
I thought about Tucker as he said that. Tucker didn’t understand everything about God or Christianity or even prayer, but he knew that his mother, his father, his Nana and Papa and his teachers and friends parents, all of the people he loved, they believed in God; they proclaimed Christianity at every moment; and they prayed to an invisible God. I still smile as I think about him sitting there, praying along in agreement with Travis or Bro. Clyde or whomever it was praying. He loved his parents, I could tell, and in turn, he loved his parents' God.
Just as Ruth had said, “…whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God…”