Monkey Prayers

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“Thank you for our food, our family, for Clint (looks up at the high chair) Clint I’m praying for you!..for Daddy, Momma, Mark, Laura. Amen.”

“Thank you for our food, our family, for Daddy coming home to play blocks with me, for Santa who will come back next year. Amen.”

“Thank for our family, our milk, our (looks at his chicken tortilla soup) Momma, what IS that?!”

“Thank you for our food, our family, Clint, Momma, Daddy, the animals we eat like monkeys….” WHAT?! If Mason ever tells you we eat some really strange animal that lives in the jungle, don’t listen. We do kill and eat just about every animal we can legally kill in the surrounding area, but there are NO monkeys on our dinner table. Please don’t be scared to come if we invite you to dinner.

Obviously he doesn’t really get the point behind the prayer. Does he even know what “family” means? Not really. All he knows is if he says the words, he gets to start eating. He knows he draws more attention to himself if he can say something that makes me giggle (because I just can’t suppress it despite the sharp look I’m getting from Cy that says “He will say that every time he prays now, thanks Kristin.”)

So why do we even encourage Mason to say these words before a meal? We hope that one day it will click with him why he is doing it; it will be so ingrained in his being to be thankful to his creator for his food that he acknowledges and seeks Him in all areas of his life.  My hope is that he learns the true character of the One he is praying to so that he wants to pray and knows why he’s doing it.

That’s wonderful and all, but the reality is that, like many of us, Mason will go through times when he sincerely talks to God, feeling and meaning every thought and every word, and then he will go through times when he recites heartless words that are spoken out of pure obligation. Sure, the rote prayers are full of good words, but if not spoken from a place of sincerity, they are essentially empty.

It’s easier to seek God when we are vulnerable. When bad things are happening. When we are convinced that we actually need Him to help us with something. We’ve all been there at some point. My husband and I had a scary experience when Clint was born. The midwife and nurses realized the moment he made his appearance that something wasn’t right. I was the only one in the room not instantly aware of the issue because I was lost in a cloud of relief after being in labor with this 9 ½ pound baby for 8 hours with no epidural. (Crazy, don’t remind me.) I started to sense the panic in the room when I realized that they had not laid him on my chest like they had done with Mason when he was born. Where were they taking my baby?! Everyone in the room started scrambling around. (If you’ve ever given birth in the hospital, you understand the multitude of witnesses surrounding you during this very pleasant experience..get over your modesty ladies.) They all left me and Cy to fend for ourselves. I heard a lot of commotion in the far corner of the room and occasionally the voice of my midwife attempting to announce his heart rate in a calm manner. I knew they were trying to get him to breathe. Left with nothing else to do, we started to pray. Out loud. That God would breathe life into him. That He would save our baby. That everything would turn out ok. We had very few words, but our hearts were fully behind those words. Everything in our beings was reaching out to the only One who could make the situation better. After all, He is the one who created the little guy.

In case you are like me and need to know the happy ending before you can comprehend anything else, he turned out just fine. He did have to stay in the NICU and undergo multiple tests for a couple days because he had a few seizures after the traumatic birth, but he is now a healthy beautiful crazy-haired 1 year old.

In that moment of sheer desperation, we acknowledged our complete lack of control. The only strength we had was in our dependence on the only One who could make the situation better. Really, we don’t have any more control over the happenings of today than we did that day. It just so happens that no one is being resuscitated today, so we don’t feel the need to cry out to God about anything. If we fully grasped the fact that life and death are held in His hands, perhaps we would feel more urgency to pray on days when the path seems smooth.

Our prayers range from fairly simple to very serious. Personally, I can group my prayers into a few different categories, and I imagine you will be able to identify with these.

  1. The Monkey Prayers: These are the ones spoken out of habit. The times when I, like Mason, just say thanks for whatever pops in my mind because it is prayer time and that’s what we are supposed to do. Am I really thankful for those things? Well, sure. But I don’t necessarily have an emotional connection with the subject or a reason to mention it to God at the time of the prayer. These prayers are good in the sense that they are constant reminders that we need to seek God. They are like the alarm I set on my phone every 45 minutes to remind Mason to try to go to the potty so that he doesn’t have an accident. Even if he doesn’t need to go, he will try and will eventually be in the habit of thinking about needing to go throughout the day. These prayers are set times to remind me to be thankful and to seek the Creator of all that I am thankful for, even if I cannot come up with anything to say.
  2. The Facebook Prayers: You know what I’m talking about. Someone asks for prayer for their grandmother and it is followed by 58 comments such as “praying”, “sending up prayers”, “praying for your family” and the like. I may or may not actually pray like I say I will, but I at least provide comfort to the one requesting prayer; my comment is more of a statement of “I’m here for you.” There is nothing wrong with that. I can’t help but think, though, that if we all actually pray like we say we will and BELIEVE in the power of the One we are praying to, miracles could happen.
  3. The Primitive Prayer, the ‘desperate plea for help because You are the only one who can help us’ prayer: Clint’s birth is the perfect example. There are countless other examples that many of you have experienced. It’s the moment following a car wreck when everyone is huddled around begging God and the EMTs to keep those people alive. It’s the moment when you get the call that the cancer is back and more aggressive. It’s the moment when you have hit rock bottom and are wondering if life is even worth living. It’s the moment when you find out that your daughter was raped. It’s the moment when you find out your husband has been cheating on you and you are in such a state of shock and despair that no worldly comforts can provide any peace or guidance. These prayers often include something to the nature of, “Forgive me for every sin I’ve ever made. If you bring me through this, I promise I’ll do anything you ask of me.”

I believe He listens to all of these, but the Primitive Prayers seem to hold the most potential to bring about change. Not because God is closer during these moments (I think he is always close) but because our desperate hearts realize our weakness and His strength. We are dependent, powerless creatures. This is a devastating realization when we are brought up to think we can conquer the world if we set our minds to it. It also happens to be the most empowering realization because it allows us to let go and give our problems over to the One who actually has power over them.

Prayers have the power to change. If you think they don’t, you are as mistaken as my 2 year old who says we eat monkeys. It doesn’t mean that we will get what we ask for, but if we are persistent in prayer and truly believe in the One we are praying to, He will bring about change, at least in our hearts, that reminds us how much He cares and how much He is in control. And yes, I absolutely believe that miracles can come about as the result of prayer, especially when we are attempting to live in a way that lines up with His will. James 5:16 tells us that “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

Talk to Him about the big problems, by all means. But talk to Him about the trivial things too. Then when big things happen, you will already have a sense of peace and trust in the One who knows your wants and needs better than you ever will because you have felt His presence even in the small things.

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