It used to be that when Shawna and I tucked Lex and Gentry into bed, we would pray for them. But the other night, as I was praying, I realized that something had changed. We no longer pray FOR the kids; we pray WITH them.
I still do the whole, "God, protect my babies; give them rest without bad dreams, and place angels at their windows and doors to keep away anything that might hurt them." But then the kids chime in with their additions.
As I listened to their prayers the other night, my eyes began to water, and I thanked God under my breath. Because they get it; their prayers were so trusting, sweet and pure, from the heart of a child directly to the ears of a God whom they know to be a Father.
But a few of those tears were tears of sadness. Because their prayers were the prayers of someone far older than their seven or six years (respectively). They were the prayers of children who carry heavy loads on behalf of those they love.
Prayers for their aunt, uncle and cousins who just vacationed in Mexico--a simple request that God keep them from safe from the swine flu. Prayers for the family of Houston, a friend who passed away a few months ago in a tragic automobile accident--that God would be a comfort to them and heal their hearts. Prayers for their Mommy, who was in bed a little early that night, with a sick stomach and a throbbing headache--that God would help their mommy feel better. Prayers for their Pastor, who recently underwent a major surgery--that God would heal his stomach. Prayers for Poppy, who was in the hospital--that God would help him stop bleeding. And prayers, oddly enough, for their dog that died a few months ago--that God take care of her (in case, by chance, dogs actually do go to heaven).
It was a beautiful thing, this realization that my two incredible kids understand prayer, and talk to God with that simple, untainted, innocent faith that only a child can have. But as they both said, "Amen", I had a lump in my throat, and a heavy heart, because their prayers were all the prayers of one burdened by the calamity of others; none were the lighthearted prayers of a child. They didn't ask for toys or video games; they didn't ask for a vacation or a swimming pool; they didn't ask for a bicycle or even a new sword or doll.
They simply asked that God reach down and care for those they love.
And that's beautiful, but somber.
I swallowed the lump, and with a soft, breaking voice, told each one how much I love them, that they are two of the three most precious people in my life.
And as I hugged them tight, and kissed them both, they each blurted out--almost simultaneously, "Daddy! We forgot something!"
And so we all closed our eyes again, and I listened as they told God that they'd forgot to ask for a house with a big tree in the back yard--big enough for a tree house.
I smiled, and whispered a silent prayer of my own: "God, as you grant each of their requests, please take special care to answer that one." Because if two people ever understood being a Christian, it's the two selfless children who, despite being true kids--ornery, rambunctious and strangely hard of hearing when Mom tells them to clean their room--spend their prayer time talking to God on behalf of those they love instead of themselves.
And if anyone deserves a big tree in the backyard, it's them.