It was time for bed and the little boy had brushed his teeth and put on his pajamas. He settled into his comfy bed and looked up at his grandmother. For as long as he could remember, when he stayed overnight at her house, she insisted that he say a night-time prayer at bedtime.
“Why do I need to say a prayer, Nana?” he asked.
“Because it’s a good way to end your day and let God know how thankful you are for all the gifts He gives to you” she said. “It never hurts to ask Him to protect you through the night while you are sleeping.”
The little boy thought for a minute and then asked her what she meant by gifts. He had not received any special packages that day.
Nana told him, “Every day brings special things to you, like a bright sunny day so you can play outside or ride your bike. Or having a special friend visit who likes to play video games with you. How about how happy our doggie was to see you today when she jumped up and licked your face? That made you giggle. Sometimes our most special gifts never come in a fancy box but are there around us every day.”
His grandmother tucked the bed covers around him, and then made sure his motorcycle night light was turned on. She knew he did not like to wake up in the night in the dark.
“Nana, does God hear me when I pray? How come when I ask him sometimes for things, I don’t get them?” He had a puzzled look on his face. He had asked God for a new action figure and was still waiting for God to give it to him.
His grandmother chuckled softly. “Sometimes God gives you what you need, not what you want.”
The little boy shook his head and said he didn’t understand what she meant. “I really need that action figure, Nana!”
It is so hard to explain some things to a child to help them comprehend the difference between “need” and “want” when it comes to asking God for things. Of course, after all the years she had lived, Nana knew how important it was to ask for simple needs – like health, love, comfort when sad – even sunny days filled with peace and laughter.
“You know,” she told the little boy, “I think God just smiles when we ask for things like new toys, or a new car, and thinks to Himself that those are things we should buy for ourselves. But I think it makes His heart happy and full of joy when we ask for His help to feel better, be happier, or have a good day. Sometimes we have a hard time trying to do those things for ourselves. We need Him to remind us those are special gifts that He wants to give to us.”
The little boy lay quietly in his bed for a bit. Nana thought that he had fallen asleep. She tiptoed to the bedroom door and was ready to walk out when she heard his tiny voice saying, “Thank you, God, for my family and all of my friends. Please keep us safe through the night. And God, do you think you could help me find a way to earn some money so I can buy the action figure myself? Amen.”
Matthew 18: 1-7 asks the question, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Jesus answered by calling a child to come to Him and said, “I assure you that unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven. The greatest in the Kingdom of heaven is the one who humbles himself and becomes like this child. And whoever welcomes in my name one such child as this, welcomes me. If anyone should cause one of these little ones to lose his faith in me, it would be better for that person to have a large millstone tied around his neck and be drowned in the deep sea.”
In verse 10 of Matthew 18, Jesus tells his disciples, “See that you don’t despise any of these little ones. Their angels in heaven, I tell you, are always in the presence of my Father in heaven.”
In Matthew 19: 13-15, we learn that people brought children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them, but the disciples scolded the people. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” He placed his hands on them and then went away.
How wonderful to know that Jesus valued little children so very much. They were never in His way and were loved so very much by Him. Sometimes we tend to push children aside instead of realizing what a special joy they can bring to our lives and should be treasured for the gift that they are. They stay little only such a short time but when they are young and curious, especially when it comes to learning about God, the questions they ask brings new opportunity for each of us to bear witness to them. How can they learn if we don’t take the time to teach them what they need to know about their heavenly Father?
Recent changes in the life of my youngest grandson has made him want to know more about God and why it is so important to worship Him. He is in need of something to believe in, to count on, and someone to be there to listen whenever he needs to talk about how he is feeling.
I, as his doting grandmother, taught him from an early age to say the night time prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep….”. We always finished by asking God to bless family and friends. Sometimes he would say it all so quickly, that I would think it was not having quite the effect that I wanted it to mean to him. But I now realize that those times laid a foundation for him that has become very important to him. No matter where he is, he never fails to pray to God as he is going to bed, and has even begun to say prayers other times of the day when he is troubled about his life.
What a blessing God is becoming in his young life, especially at a time when things have been so difficult for him. He knows that I will always be there to guide him and help him build his faith for as long as I am able, and I am so grateful that he is in my life as well. When I taught Sunday School, I was given the following, “A hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove….but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child. Thank you, God, for little children.
PRAY WITH ME: Father, help us to remember how it felt to be a very young child of yours. Let us find new joy in the presence of children and their innocence. Help each of us to be patient with them and ready to answer any of their questions about why they are so important to You. Let us help them grow in faith and be thankful that they are your children. AMEN.