"Dear Father...God bless Liesl and Friedrich.
God bless Louisa, Brigitta, Marta and little Gretl.
And I forgot the other boy. What's his name? Well,
God bless what's-his-name. ...
And now, dear God, about Liesl...
Help her know that I'm her friend...and help her
tell me what she's been up to. Help me to be
understanding so I may guide her footsteps.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the
Holy Ghost. A-men."
i don't know. maybe it's something about the classic, white linen of her night gown. maybe it's the storm brewing wildly outside the alpine estate, maybe it's the fact that this was her very first day on the job and instead of collapsing in bed and feeling sorry for herself, this nun turned nanny, is kneeling in prayer for 7 naughty children. children who have already attempted a variety of tricks and shown multiple levels of meanness.
what i love most though, is when liesl is sneaking rebelliously through the bedroom window, how maria amps up the passion in her praying. her words immediately become personal, tender and warmly engaging. she senses, intrinsically, 16 year old liesl needs her. there's no arguing, maria is one wise woman.
i have always been a mother who prays for her children. in fact, i prayed for them well before they were even born. i remember often, in each pregnancy, biological or otherwise, my prayers and dreams would intermingle. what would they look like...what might they be like...and those questions would lead directly into prayers for their safe arrival and good health and bright future. i couldn't separate my dreams about them from my prayers for them. i suppose i still do that. dream. pray. dream. pray. i've always been a praying kind of mama. i am sure, at some level, it just goes with the territory. a mother on her knees -- helping a child into boots, wiping up a spill, putting together an ABC puzzle or praying for her children. the knees are well worked. well worn.
but the truth is, there have been times when i've been able to do little more than just whisper their names in the presence of my Father. times when i've been able to only briefly ask God's blessing. when life has gotten especially busy or i've been in a season of serious distraction, i can tell my prayer life leaves something to be desired. when i'm in this dry, flat kind of place, my prayers are quick and general, sometimes even just occasional. that's sort of hard to admit to y'all. i'd really prefer for you to view me as an always entrenched mama, a woman going daily to battle for her children, a mother who spends hours on her knees before the sunrise pleading for the well being of her offspring. that's how i'd like you to view me. but, if i'm honest, i have to admit , somedays, and in some seasons, i've fallen short of being that ideal prayer warrior woman. i've had many mornings with quick devotions and even quicker prayers. with five children and a husband and a whole lot of community, i could pray all the day long. but instead, i've had times when i've only jumped into the car and prayed for my wee ones as i drove helter-skelter around town running errands. i've watched my children climb out in carpool and i've whispered simple, desperate phrases in the wake of their departure, "Lord please bless them today."
and there's nothing wrong with that kind of praying. we are to pray continuously. we are to "pray without ceasing." (1 thessalonians 5:17). pray as we drive and shop and paint and wipe down sticky countertops. that's a wonderful gift God has given us -- the freedom to pray whenever and wherever. but, of course, there are many facets to how we pray. growing up, i had a friend my age across the street. her name was frannie and she was from a catholic family. i was always fascinated hearing about when she'd go to confession. it sounded so exotic to my protestant ears. it sounded holy and set apart and mysterious. it sounded like a place for a best dress and clean fingernails. i never asked frannie, but i secretly wished she'd someday take me with her to confession. i, too, wanted to sit in a dimly lit box and whisper quiet words to someone behind a dark screen of intrigue.
now, i'm in no way suggesting we have to climb into a special closet to go about our praying. oh heaven's no! but there is something appealing to a time of set apart prayer. even Jesus, the Son of God, found that He needed to escape the multitudes and meet alone with His Father. "but Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." (luke 5:16). "and when He had sent the multitudes away (or the children to school"), He went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, He was there alone." (matthew 14:23). even Jesus carved out a time and a place to come before His Father. He didn't just fit it in between stoplights and groceries.
"and in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out,
and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed." ~ mark 1:35
in away, i feel a lot like maria these days. i was going along mentioning names and quickly blessing the children in all our life-bustle and busy-ness (possibly even forgetting a name here and there), but with all the twists and turns of life recently, the prayers for my kids have gone up a notch or two. hard times encourage this shift, don't they? you know what i'm talking about: your child is sick or discouraged or hurting or hard to handle and the prayer life begins to rev back up again. a little stronger. a little longer. a little deeper, harder, louder. am i right or am i right?
i can't say i've ever been caught kneeling at my bedside praying for my children out loud...certainly not in an old fashioned night gown at least, but, i have been walked in on in the middle of my quiet prayers. each of my children has interrupted me at some point with some kind of kid crisis. though it doesn't happen nearly enough, i do think they like that. it throws them off a bit for sure. it certainly makes them all pause a little longer than finding their mom just folding laundry or chopping chicken. i am sure my children like to know they are prayed for. in fact, every single night after i pray with my middle child, sarah, and tuck her in...every single night as i leave her room she shouts out a few quick final prayer requests: "mom, pray for my sore throat or my test tomorrow or that i'll fall right to sleep." i'm not kidding you, she's been doing that from the time she could talk. she never misses a night. the funny thing, she calls these out as i am leaving her room after we've just finished praying -- just finished going together before the thrown of Jesus. and yet my girl, she wants more. she knows she needs more prayer. kids, even pre-teens, can be wise that way.
i'll admit though, there have been times when i am slightly annoyed by these straggling, departing requests. i've always thought they were part of her great bedtime stall tactic. in the same category as, "i need a drink of water," or "i have to go potty, " or "mama can you give me one more kiss?" but, now that i'm sitting here writing about this this morning, i am thinking a little differently. who cares? who cares what her reason is for asking me to pray. what a pure priviledge it is to have my child ask for specific prayer. what a gift. what an opportunity. she might not always be prone to do this. there will come a day when i might have to ask her. "sarah, how i can pray for you today?" and she might not always be so quick to offer up her needs or share her fears. she is 12 and there is a lot of life ahead for this little gal...she needs her mama to be praying willingly. diligently. daily. they all do.
back when i had only tiny people living in our home, i read stormie omartian's book, "the power of a praying parent." i read the book and helped co-lead a study on this great resource. i almost want to laugh out loud as i have at least two of my children now taller than me...and a third who will pass me by shortly. life has changed. i thought back when we were trudging through toddlerhood i understood the great need for prayer (and i DID need it)...but now i have teens. enough said.
this morning, i write to encourage all of us: let's pray better for our children. pray diligently. pray specifically. pray boldly. they need it. we need to do it. God wants to hear it. make the time to meet with Jesus. set it apart whenever we can. it is the best appointment we can make for ourselves...and for our children.