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What my Baby is Teaching me about Prayer

- Saturday, December 01, 2012

by guest authors Tim and Olive Chan

A while ago, a friend suggested to me that I might want to write about what I’ve been learning about prayer through my experience of being a parent.

Since prayer and the deepening of my relationship with God are matters that are close to my heart, and parenthood is the bulk of my daily life these days, it made sense to me to give it some thought.

Here’s what I’ve gleaned so far from reflecting on parenthood as it relates to prayer.

Apart from praying for my child, and praying for strength and wisdom to raise my child, there are a few other ways I see connections between the two:

It takes discipline to keep paying attention.

As I’ve said before in another post, prayer can be defined as paying attention.  As a parent, I realize that I’m often tempted to shift my focus elsewhere when I’m with my daughter.  My mind often wanders: things to add to my growing to-do list, what to make for dinner, people I mean to reply to on email… Many cares and concerns creep up and distract me from being fully attentive and present to my child.  Her babbling easily becomes background noise and unconsciously I stare into the distance.  But then I look at her and see her little eyes searching my face for a response from me.  She wants to know that I see her and that I’m here with her.  In those moments, I remind myself that I am missing out on the moment.  That I am letting this opportunity for prayer slip by.

Similarly, this happens in my relationship with God.  All too often, I live in the past, or the future.  I am occupied with what if’s or ought to’s, and I neglect the present day and all the life God has filled this current moment with.  Being present to my child trains me to be present to God.

It takes openness to discover who the other person is.

As I watch Alena grow, I am being challenged to keep discovering her every day.  I realize that I need to know her for who she is and not just who I expect her to be or wish her to be.  For example, when we started feeding her solid foods, I expected her to love apple sauce. (I mean, what baby doesn’t like apple sauce?)  But she absolutely hated it!  I have to continually remind myself to be open to discovering with her what her likes and dislikes are.  To not demand of her to be a certain way (even if it’s an internal desire that is never expressed.)

In the same way, as I get to know God, I must let Him be who He is.  I have to allow Him to surprise me and move in unexpected ways in my life.  After all, I can’t really get to know Him if I insist on thinking of Him in the certain way.

It takes humility to accept love.

This, perhaps, is the hardest lesson so far.  Being loved by my daughter is the closest I’ve ever come to being loved unconditionally by a human.  My husband is a close second, but there are still things I will do or say that test the limits.  My baby, however, simply loves me.  Even if I’m having a bad day.  Even if I forget to change her diaper.  Even if I ignore her cries.  Even if I make a thousand mistakes as a parent.  She just accepts me.  No conditions.

When I think of the way my baby loves me, I get a better feel for the way God loves me.  What’s amazing is that unlike my child, who isn’t really cognizant of everything that’s happening, God actually knows when I’m making poor choices or being willfully destructive.  And yet God still loves me with the same pure delight.

It’s hard to accept this kind of love.  Because something in me wants to say, “I deserve this,” or, “I earned it.”  And yet, the mystery is that this love rests solely on the basis of relationship.  I am loved because I am her mother.  I am loved because I am God’s child.

Alena’s love for me challenges me in my relationship with God.  Can I love Him in the same trusting way?

As I grow as a parent, it is no wonder to me that God chooses to use the analogy of this relationship to describe His relationship with us.  I only hope that I can pay closer attention to my earthly relationship with my child so that I can understand more of God’s relationship with me.

Special thanks to our guest family contributors: Tim and Olive and their daughter Alena for their insight into parenting and family prayer life. Tim is a cheerful pessimist who loves hockey. He proposed to his wife Olive with a goat and together they blog about thoughtful marriage, parenting, and life. Their first ebook, Fight With Me: How We Learned to be Married is available for free. Tim and Olive live with their daughter near Vancouver, Canada.

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