by Rubel Shelly
Published in LoveLines (July 8, 1993)
Our Childish Prayers
While Nancy Blevins was shopping at the Hickory Hollow Kroger one evening, she began noticing a young family moving through the aisles with her. A young mom and dad were there with their two children.
While the baby rode along in his infant seat in the shopping cart, their four-year-old son was bouncing off the walls and getting on their nerves. Maybe he'd had too much sugar that day! But he was antsy. Jumping around. Jabbering.
As they came to the end of a long row of stocked shelves, they were pulling up to the meat department. "Mom, can we go to Burger King when we're through?" asked the little boy.
"No, Tommy. We're not going to Burger King," said the mother. I told you before we came in here that we would go to Burger King if you wouldn't act up while we shopped."
"Aw, Mom! Please!" begged Tommy. "I want to go to Burger King. Can we go? Please. Please!"
The appeals went on and on, until eventually a frustrated young mother turned, squared off with her fidgety son, and said, "This is my final word. We are not going to Burger King! Now I'm tired and don't want to hear any more about it."
A somber four year old looked up and replied, "Mama, if you'll just take us to Burger King, I promise I'll start my life over."
When Nancy told me that story the next Sunday morning, we agreed how true to life Tommy's case was. It sounds like some of the prayers we children of God offer to our Heavenly Father. While we smile at Tommy's immaturity, we seem not to see our own. Seeing what he offered as nothing more than an infantile effort at manipulation, we blind ourselves to what we are attempting to do to God.
Can you imagine how that little boy's mother must have had to fight to keep from laughing out loud? Can't you just see the grin that would have broken across her face? So how do you think God must deal with all the childish, naive promises we throw at him when we are trying to whine something from him with our often selfish prayers?
Don't misunderstand, God is happy to receive the genuine prayer of supplication. And if a sincere and appropriate vow is coupled with that prayer, so much the better. But as a flippant, immature, manipulative plea to twist an ephemeral gift from God? Please! Grow up!
The next time you're tempted to insult God and diminish prayer with such spiritual immaturity, remember your own reaction to Tommy's plea.
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