“Don’t forget Cotton Candy,” my daughter said to me, referring to her bright pink stuffed lamb. I was just about to conclude our bedtime prayers with an “Amen.”
Every night as I tuck her in, we pray for our family, our friends, those we know who are struggling, and those who simply come to mind. It isn’t unusual for her to recommend we pray for someone, but this was the first time I have ever prayed for a stuffed animal.
NOTICING THE LITTLE THINGS
Praying with a child changes the way you pray. It changes the way you see God and the requests you deem important. It seems trivial to pray for a stuffed lamb, but for my now five-year-old daughter it is natural.
Before I had kids, I never thought to pray for a good night’s rest, for mundane everyday activities, for little sicknesses and potty issues, or for the person at the grocery store checkout counter. But she notices everyone.
My daughter helps me pay attention to the world, to the little blessings, and to the people who daily cross our path. She teaches me the importance of the small and the everyday in our lives and in our prayers.
I had been in vocational ministry for almost eight years before we had our daughter, and it wasn’t until those nights kneeling next to her bed that I truly saw how God cares for every detail of our lives and of his world. He cares about what we deem inconsequential and what we deem important. He desires for us to bring it all to him in prayer, even “Cotton Candy.”
THE EXAMPLE OF THE LORD’S PRAYER
One of the most famous passages in Scripture is what we call The Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13). As followers of Jesus we know prayer is essential to the Christian life.
So, the question is not should we pray, but rather how do we pray?
Jesus teaches us how to pray by painting a beautiful picture of a heart surrendered to God. He shows us a heart that recognizes we are not alone when we pray to our Father in heaven. He reminds us that we pray with the community of God’s people.
We pray to the sovereign King of the universe who is also near. We pray to a God who is close to us and who is on the throne. We pray to a Father who loves us and has power over the requests we make.
Jesus begins his prayer with broad, sweeping, God-glorifying requests.
He prays, “hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10, ESV). These requests show that our greatest need is for God’s Kingdom to come and his will be done. God will glorify himself in his world. God’s Kingdom will advance. God’s plan will be accomplished.
In his prayer, Jesus teaches us to connect our hearts to the eternal work of God to redeem and restore the world. He helps us gain an eternal perspective for our lives—an understanding that we should seek first his kingdom and surrender to his will.
Many commentaries make a hard break between the requests in verse ten and the following requests of verses eleven through thirteen. They mention how these first three requests are God-centered, focused on the glory of God and the redemption secured through the cross and the resurrection. The next three, they say, are more practical and personal requests for our daily needs, relationships, and sanctification.
Making this hard break can lead us to seeing some requests as more important than others. But Jesus wants us to see the importance of bringing every area of our lives to God in prayer. God cares about the everyday and the eternal. He chooses to work precisely through the mundane moments that we might deem “less important.”
One of the ways God advances his kingdom and accomplishes his will is through the making of daily bread, the forgiving of wrongs, and the daily struggle of sanctification. God cares about the everyday and the eternal because the everyday is the eternal.
When Jesus teaches us to pray for our daily bread, it is a request for the provision and faithfulness of God in the everyday needs of his people. Most of us don’t have to worry about where our next meal will come from, we don’t have to pray for tomorrow’s bread, but we do need God’s faithfulness and provision daily.
God is at work in every detail of our lives. When we are able to recognize the importance of the everyday in the scheme of the eternal, God expands our prayer life. God reveals his glory, brings his kingdom, and fulfills his will through the making and eating of the daily bread. His work in the mundane and ordinary of our lives are how God reveals his glory to us and the world.
BIG AND SMALL PRAYERS
As good Christians we would never say some requests are not important, but functionally many of our prayer lives show this belief.
Yes, there is a danger of being self-centered in prayer and missing the big picture emphasis of the kingdom of God advancing and the will of God being accomplished. But, there is also a danger of missing the way God is already doing exactly this in the everyday, mundane, ordinary moments of our lives.
Many of us think of God’s Kingdom advancing only in terms of big movements of revival and renewal. We think of God revealing his glory in mountain top experiences instead of the everyday realities of our lives. But, God reveals his glory everywhere we look. God’s Kingdom is advancing in ways we have not seen simply because we have not paid attention. Jesus teaches us to see every moment as a moment where God’s Kingdom comes and God’s will is done.
It’s in the moments where I am kneeling beside my little girl that I have learned to pay attention to the details of life. It is as I am holding her hand in the glow of her nightlight that I see God working in the small moments.
THE SWEETNESS OF PRAYER
You better believe I prayed for Cotton Candy that night. I couldn’t tell you now what I prayed for, but in that moment, I believe God was pleased. This little girl believed God cared even about her stuffed animal. She trusted God cared about every detail of her life.
I need to believe that too.
God is at work in the world. God is at work in the areas of my life I may deem insignificant. God’s Kingdom is advancing and his will is being done on earth as it is in heaven. God is revealing his glory in the making and eating of daily bread, in the mundane and ordinary moments of our lives, and at the bedsides of little girls and boys as they pray, even for their stuffed animals.
Zac Harrel is pastor of First Baptist Church in Gustine, TX. He is husband to Shandra and daddy to Evahlyn and Jameson. You can find him on Twitter @ZHarrel.