As I was wrapping up preparation for a lesson on prayer for the fifth and sixth graders at my church a few weeks ago, it was suggested that I share a memory of something I wanted really badly when I was their age and to talk to them about how I responded.
This was the hardest part of the preparation for me. There is a forty-year gap between us. I don’t remember praying very much when I was their age. What could I reference that might bridge the gap and be relatable for them? The world in which we live is so very different than the one I grew up in (and yet also very much the same).
I wasn’t a girl who was boy crazy yet so wanting a boy to like me just didn’t figure into the picture. I had a best friend who lived walking distance away which allowed for play time on school days. I enjoyed school and had fun with my friends in school. I had a mom and dad who loved and cared for me and two older brothers who looked out for me.
In short, I had everything I needed for a happy childhood.
At about 2 a.m. the morning before class, I realized what I could share with the kids.
When I was eleven, a new childhood friend’s family had horses. I was in awe. How could a creature be so majestic, so strong and yet so gentle? I would watch my friend’s horses canter around the corral with a beautiful, breath-taking rhythm, enjoying their easy and playful movement as they did.
It was love at first sight. I knew then I wanted a horse.
Unfortunately, my parents said no. I was a rather determined child, and the siege soon began in order prove to them I was responsible enough to care for a horse.
As I embarked on this new adventure, I learned by reading, listening and doing. I researched the costs of feeding and caring for a horse. I learned how to braid manes and tails, and how to place a saddle and bridle on a horse. I learned how to ride and do jumps. I watched the Triple Crown and went to horse shows with my friend and her family. Every opportunity I had, I showed up at my friend’s house to muck stalls and feed the horses. I asked questions and read books on horsemanship and the entire series of fiction books by Walter Farley. I learned the importance of listening carefully to the subtle movements a horse made in order to stay safe and maintain a healthy respect for such a large animal. I started to develop horse sense.
Learning about horsemanship consumed my time for months, perhaps even years. But at age 11, I was completely horse crazy. I never got that horse, however, and I remember being so very disappointed at the time.
I look back now, and I see God’s hand in this experience, teaching me perseverance and patience. He taught me the value of friendship and faithfulness as my friend and I spent time together caring for her horses. He taught me to keep showing up and to listen with everything in me in order to learn. And I learned the satisfaction that comes with applying my mind to learn new skills and work toward a goal. I learned to enjoy the process even when that which I hoped for did not come my way.
I have since learned that God is more interested in my character and who I am becoming than He is in what I look like, what stuff I have, or in what I have achieved. I have found this is one of the beautiful gifts of an active prayer life; It has taught me reverence, thankfulness and joyful submission. At 11 years old, I did not have an appreciation for prayer as a way to draw closer to God. Yet the simple practice of daily conversation with God has not left me unchanged. It draws me in and helps me to listen for God’s heart to be the woman I was created to be.
A rich prayer life is His desire for you too, my friend. Take time today to rest in God’s presence in order to better know Him. For me this morning, this looked like reading and reflecting on Psalm 111, thanking God in prayerful conversation for all He has done.
Know this: when you take the time to get to know the God of the Bible, you start to see His hand at work in your life and in the lives of others, and this is the greatest of blessings.
“Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart…” (Psalm 111:1a, ESV)
Photo credit: EtiAmmos