A Prayer from a Daughter’s Daddy

 

My daughter, many moons ago...

My daughter, many moons ago…

By Joe LaGuardia

quotesLord, have mercy on me, a father of a twelve-year old daughter.

She just turned twelve, as you know, and scripture says that we are not to be anxious about anything, but in everything, with gratitude, make our petitions known to you (Philippians 4:6).

I am grateful, believe me.  I know that you have knit my daughter in her mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).  I thank you for giving her smarts well beyond her years, whits that out-whit her father, and an intuition that matches that of her mother.

But that is what makes me anxious.  She is growing up too quickly, and my little girl is becoming a little woman.  Everything about her is changing, but I do not want her innocence, sense of adventure, and joy to change.  I’ve seen it in other girls–watched it unfold on the silver screen in that Disney movie, Inside Out– but I’m afraid to experience it in my own home.

Years ago, my wife and I worked with middle school kids, many of whom were my daughter’s age.  We enjoyed our time with them: They would try anything, and it made them a really fun group to be with.  Yet, they would try anything, which also made them the scariest group to be with.

I’ve always said that if our world wanted peace, prosperity, and more clean energy resources, just get a bunch of middle schoolers in the same room and let them have at it.  They are little geniuses, but that is also their downfall.  They get too big for their britches sometimes.

As smart as they are– (its the way they see the world, I think, the combination of madness, hormones, and naivety)– they can also be as dumb as a bag of bricks.  I’ve seen one middle school student jump off of a ten foot wall just to make his friends laugh.

I also worked with high school students, and they were not as fun.  They do not think it is cool to show any signs of interest or motivation.  They are too concerned about what other people think and, because of that, working with them at church is about as fun as going to the proctologist.

Lord, thank you that my daughter is not there yet.

Then there are the boys.  O merciful and gracious and kind Father, I pray that my daughter will still be more interested in Legos than she is about the young man with long, unkempt hair next door when tomorrow comes.

I know that your Word says that we should let the children come unto Thee and not hinder them (Matthew 19:14), but Thee is not my daughter, so may my Louisville slugger always be at the ready, your right arm there for protection.  I don’t own a gun, but I’m thinking about it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Lord.  This is an exciting time.  It is formative, and I’m sure that my daughter will think more critically about the type of person she wants to be in life.

We’ve raised her to think independently.  When we told her that she can be anything she wants to be, we’ve meant it, especially since we are the type of Baptists who will affirm her if she tells us one day that she wants to become a pastor like her Daddy.

We want to hold on to her for dear life, so give us the courage to let go when we must.  We have heard of Prodigal Sons, but surely there are such things as Prodigal Daughters.  We trust you and we trust her; its the rest world about which we are unsure.

As is any prayer, O Lord, this is really about me, not about you.  Its about the willingness to surrender life’s greatest gifts to your plan and purpose in life, even if we don’t understand it.  It is about changing, not the person for whom we pray, but us– your stubborn children, sons and daughters alike.

O Lord, have mercy on me, for my daughter is twelve.”

Advertisements

Prayers of the Hopeful

child-praying

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.

Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world…

Youth-soccer-indiana

With violence overwhelming Paris in the last few weeks, a half-dozen police officers and ever more innocent citizens shot dead across the nation, genocide in Nigeria, Cuban people held in political hostage by a perplexed, American Congress in gridlock, and a controversy over a Muslim call to prayer at Duke University that incited the Reverend Franklin Graham to opine that Duke’s inclusive policy is a form of affirming Islamic extremism, it seems that peace is hard to come by these days.

Not four weeks out from Christmas, a time when we ask for God to bring peace on earth, we see the worst of humanity plague politics, communities, and nations across the globe. I fear that our only hope for peace lies, not with those of us who are old enough to understand the hymns of peace that we sing, but with the next generation who have the power to craft a future not divided by race, culture, or religion.

This is what happened last month in Haifa, the northern-most coastal territory of Israel, when 200 children from different cultures and religions gathered to play a game of soccer.

It was December 15th, and the event was organized by the British ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould.  The event was intentional and brought together various soccer leagues from Jewish, Muslim, and Druz communities in honor of the 1914 Christmas Truce of World War 1.

The children knew full well the significance of the event, and they rallied enough support from parents, other professional soccer players, and politicians to make the event a historic day for Israel-Palestinian relations.

Melanie Lidman, writing in the National Catholic Reporter, documented the story and quoted Zouheir Bahloul, an Arab-Israeli soccer announcer as saying, “Here, we have an island of equality, and we need to develop projects like this…especially at this age.”

A few children were also interviewed.  One child, age 11, stated that he wanted to play in the tournament to meet new people and make new friends.

While we adults cower, react, respond, and act out in fear, our children have an uncanny way of building friendships across barriers and seeing the humanity in those who are different than they.  We need to learn from their example.

All of this took place near Mount Carmel, the mountain famous for the prophet Elijah’s showdown with the priests of Baal (1 Kings 18), a series of caves that acted as Elisha’s spiritual retreat center (2 Kings 2:25; 4:25); and a symbol of beauty for the author of Song of Solomon (7:5).

Not very far from that location, near the Sea of Galilee, Jesus challenged his disciples to follow in the footsteps of children: “Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4).

Humility is something that we Christians are called to model, but we have to recognize that it is not a virtue we can force on others.  There will always be people who seek destruction, violence, and vitriol as a means to a dastardly end; if we respond in kind, then we are no different and humility will escape us.  God only holds us responsible for our holiness and our reactions to others.

A week after the protests and controversy at Ferguson related to the killing of Michael Brown, a group of us asked the youth at our church what they thought about race relations.  The children–ranging in ages from 11 to 15 years old–were clueless as to why such conflict between the races even existed.

One white youth who has an African-American best friend said that all of the people he knows at school have moved past issues related to race, sexual orientation, and even religion.  It seems that those conflicts are our problems, not his and his friends.

On that Israeli coastal plain half-way around the world, we see a model for how to do reconciliation, Christian or otherwise.  We can see it in the smiles of laughing, playing children.  We can see it in the collaboration of teams that work together for healthy competition.  We can see it in the innocence and joy of our beloved young people, whom I hope will craft a world far removed from the divisive–and divided–world in which we find ourselves.