I’ve been to a few baby showers in recent months, and I’m amazed at all the stuff you can buy. Today’s registries include everything from traditional onesies and blankets to what-the-heck items like the Baby Butt Fan (“experts agree” that air drying prevents diaper rash), the iPotty (because apparently today’s toddlers don’t want to miss a minute of screen time), and the Kickbee (a thing pregnant moms wrap on their bellies to digitally detect baby’s kicks–and then tweet them out to the world).
(I know. How did my generation make it through nine months without that?)
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, in addition to burp cloths and bottles, we could add character traits to our cart? Think about it. Expectant mothers could add things like wisdom, kindness, and self-control for their kids. I might register for gentleness and patience, and an others-centered outlook on life. And wouldn’t we all want gifts like perseverance, integrity, a joyful spirit, and a thankful heart?
The list, of course, could go on. And how cool would it be if all we had to do was throw a shower and have our friends bring us these blessings?
Happily, God’s got another–better–way to give these good gifts to our kids. He invites us to ask him for them.
In his book, How to Pray, R.A. Torrey says that prayer is “God’s appointed way for obtaining things, and the great secret of all lack in our experience, in our life and in our work is neglect of prayer.”
Torrey’s not the one who came up with the link between asking and receiving; we see that played out in the Bible (see, for instance, Matthew 7:7 and John 16:24). For a lot of folks, though, Torrey’s words can feel daunting. We know we should pray, but sometimes we don’t–and we can beat ourselves up over that lack.
And perhaps no one beats themselves up more than young moms. This comment, shared last week on a friend’s Instagram post, pierced my heart:
I was such a good pray-er until God blessed me with a second boy. I have three energetic sons, ages 3, 5 and 1. Between teething and nighttime breastfeeding and everything else, I feel so bad in all spheres. And I feel guilty.
Boy, can I ever relate. Robbie and I had four kids in six years, and honestly? I don’t know how today’s mothers do it. I see them making their own baby food and checking labels for all things organic; I remember dumping Trix cereal out on the high chair and hoping that counted as fruit.
And prayer time? That was reserved for people who had fewer kids and less laundry than I did. Any time I heard about some Varsity Christian who spent hours in prayer (like the persecuted people on the other side of the world all seemed to be doing) I’d want to throw in the prayer towel and quit. “I’m just not that holy,” I’d think to myself. “I’m just not that good.”
And I’d feel bad for my kids, cuz I knew they had a lame-Christian mom.
But then I met Cynthia Heald, a best-selling author whose books include Becoming a Woman of Prayer. “I’d like to be a woman of prayer,” I told her, “but I’m not. I almost never have time to sit down with my notebook and a Bible to pray–and I feel like my prayers don’t really count.”
Cynthia set me straight. “You can pray in the carpool line,” she said, “or while you’re washing dishes. Pray while you walk through your neighborhood, or while you clean the bathroom. It doesn’t take a lot of time or preparation to meet God. Just go to him, and you’re there.”
Now, I am sure that Cynthia Heald would encourage all of us to make time in our schedules for some concentrated, uninterrupted prayer, but her gentle advice to “just do it” got me started. I began to pray while I drove, while I made lunches, and even while I scrubbed toilets, using (and I realize this sounds kind of pathetic) the smell of Lysol, in place of biblical incense, to remind me to pray.
All of which is to say (especially to the new mamas out there): Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t believe the lie that your prayers have to be perfect, or long, or written down in a beautiful faux-leather journal to count.
That season will come.
For now, take your parenting cue from the disciples. Granted, they never had to make a Pilgrim costume out of a grocery bag and brown packing tape, but they did need to know how to pray–and so they asked Jesus for help. They asked him to teach them, and we can do the same thing. We can ask God to show us how to pray, and to help us make the most of our minutes.
God knows what it’s like to have kids and to want good things for their lives. Prayer is the vehicle he invented for us to ask him to provide.
And all we have to do is…just do it.
Teach us to live wisely and well. (Psalm 90:12 MSG)
Prompt us to lift up our hands to you and plead for the lives of our children. (Lamentations 2:19 NLT)
And remind us, when we are weary and worn, that we can come boldly before your throne, knowing that your grace is always there to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:16 NLT)
(Note to moms eyeing the iPotty: We used that book, Toilet Training in Less than a Day, which, if I remember right, worked really well and only required salty chips, candy rewards, and like 17 gallons of apple juice.)