Tuesday or Wednesday night is Chinese food night at my house. Karen calls and orders our favorite, chicken and broccoli with added green beans and hot and sour soup. Then Maddy, Ethan and I go pick it up. The Chinese takeout is next to the Food Lion, a local grocery store. So first we go into the store to buy a bottle of Coke. This is special because we aren't allowed to have it in the house at any other time except when people bring it over for a BBQ. When that happens I hide it in the fridge and hope they forget to take it home with them when they leave.
While we are in the grocery store, Maddy says what she always says when her and I are in a grocery store. "Remember your first rule of shopping dad." I say "yeah, I think so...what is it again." She says, "Always check the chip isle for sales." "Right" I say and off we go to the chip isle.
After discussing both the positives and negatives of the chip options, those that are on sale, we come to a consensus's. A bag of barbeque kettle potato chips for Maddy and Ranch Doritos for Ethan and me... and of course the Coke. We mustn't forget the Coke.
After being begged for Krispy Kream donuts and very rarely giving in, we buy our junk food, which has an aptly named junk food drawer waiting at home. I think Karen hoped that if she named it junk food it would cause us to think twice before eating the food stored there. Unfortunately, it's done the opposite, now I know where to find the junk food and when it needs to be re-stocked. Finally we head over to the Chinese take out restaurant.
This day was different however, this day we were met outside the restaurant by a middle-aged lady. "Sir if I could ask you a question." "Yeah." I said, "My car ran out of gas just up the road and I need five dollars to get some gas, do you have five dollars you could give me?" She asked. "Well I don't have any cash on me but I would be glad to drive you over to the gas station and buy you some gas with my debit card, just let me go in and grab our take out and Ill be right out." She thanked me and said she would wait.
When we got back outside the lady was nowhere in sight. We looked through the parking lot and when we couldn't find her we headed home, my kids peppering me with questions.
"Where did she go?" and "Do you think she really needed gas?" I couldn't answer any of the questions but one thing I was certain of. The lady needed help. So I told my kids we could pray for her. While driving home Maddy prayed, " Lord help that lady to stay warm and dry. Help her to find gas. Help her to know you. Help her to etc... thank you lord." Ethan was quiet.
Now I had been trying to get Ethan to pray for months but he was shy, embarrassed and simply didn't seem to want to. I was facing a parent's conundrum. I wanted my son to learn how to pray but wasn't certain how to make it happen.
Looking in my rear view mirror I began coaching him with sincere enthusiasm. Ethan what can you pray for? "I don't know" he says. "Well she wanted money for gas, you could pray for that. Go ahead..." I said. I waited thirty seconds, then a minute. Silence. I looked in the rear view mirror and watched him scrunch up his face. Go ahead buddy, I said again. "I don't know how. " He finally said.
Well, that wasn't true. This wasn't our first rodeo. He had heard Mom and Dad pray thousands of times, plus I had spent countless nights before bedtime teaching him how to pray. I was running out of patience and starting to get frustrated.
I tried another angle, "Ethan if you were outside right now and didn't have a warm jacket, would you be cold?" "Yes" he said. "Would you want someone to help you?" "Yes" he said. "Well we couldn't find her to help her personally but we know God can help her don't we?" "Yes" "Well, then lets pray and ask God to help her." "I don't know how."
By now we had pulled into our driveway and I had decided that my son and I were going to wrestle this thing out. "Maddy, take the food inside, we will be in shortly. Ethan come up front and sit here with me" I said. Maddy left and then I said, "Ethan, Daddy is gonna teach you how to pray and you are gonna pray. Ok?" Ethan looked at me and knew I was serious. I said, "I am going to say the words and you are going to repeat them." So I prayed for the lady and he repeated after me.
"This isn't what I wanted," I thought. I want him to want to talk with God. I want him to hear God and experience Him. When we were done I let him know that what he did wasn't the kind of praying I wanted him to learn. That what he did was simply about obedience, which is good because that's important too. Then I again told him that prayer was a personal conversation with God. That my heart is that he can talk to God just like Daddy does. That he would know the love of God through his own personal relationship.
We got out of the mini van and hugged. I told him I loved him and was proud of him. We headed in for Chinese and Coke. And in my heart I was praying that God would reveal to me how to teach my son to pray. That he would know Gods love first hand...