By Joe LaGuardia
I enjoy listening to my children pray. My seven-year old son started praying regularly just this last season of Lent (it was his commitment for Lent in preparation for his baptism come Easter day).
His prayers are unlike any I’ve ever heard. Usually, people start their prayers with, “Lord, we ask…” or “Lord, please…”.
Not my son. He begins every sentence with, “I hope….”
“I hope my mother gets home safely this evening. I hope that tomorrow is a good day. I hope that we get to play outside this weekend and there’s no rain.”
I think we need to learn something from him. We too should approach God full of hope. We have hope in our hearts, but we can also express hope in our prayers too. It would make for more honest prayer, that’s for sure.
Hope is appropriate for prayer because it is the substance of faith. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” When we express our hopes to God, we bear witness to our faith that God is in control of our life and our purpose in the future.
Whether my son knows it or not, when he tells God of all the things for which he hopes, he is declaring his faith in God’s providential wisdom. I realize he is not that theological, but there is a reason why Jesus let the little children come unto him.
It is because children are honest in their prayers, and we need to learn from them.
Even those who grieve or face hardship may express hope in a prayer to God. “We do not want you to be uninformed,” Paul wrote to the churches in Thessalonica, “so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
Yes, we grieve; but, we do so with hope that God will make all things right in the end (and the new beginning!) of time. We hope even in our longing and desperation for God’s creation to be made new and whole.
Psalm 4 encourages prayer warriors to trust and hope in God in all situations: “When you are disturbed, do not sin; ponder it on your beds and be silent. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord” (verses 4-5).
To me, this verse balances quiet contemplation (we must think about our hopes and dreams and express them to God), with holy action (we respond to God by offering our very lives as living sacrifices, putting all our eggs in God’s basket).
Like my son, we are to pray often with the phrase, “I hope!”, and we can take all things to God in prayer:
“I hope You will give me strength and heal me of this cancer.”
“I hope that I will feel your presence during this time of uncertainty.”
“I hope that my children will be safe today.”
“I hope that I can be courageous in my compassion towards those in need or those who are on the margins.”
“I hope You give me a spirit of forgiveness to reconcile with my enemies today.”
I know it is a leap to go from hoping to seeing the requests of our prayers come true, but we have to start somewhere — and honesty is the best way to go.
In another letter to a group of churches, Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).
May our prayers this week be filled with hope, that trust may replace anxiety, assurance replace uncertainty, and holiness replace paralysis.