PRAYER RESPONSE TO THE VIRUS AND ECONOMY. HOW TO PRAY WITH SENSE. HOW TO TELL CHILDREN AND WHAT THEY CAN PRAY.
Before I launch some practical prayer guidance, remember to keep social distancing in the face of any infectious disease. The current virus is still following an exponential curve of increased cases, so social distancing is needed. Many are paying the price for not doing it. See the cdc.gov site if you have questions about guidance. This note, however, is about prayer, especially prayer as encouraged for the young.
HOW DO YOU PRAY IN A TIME OF HARDSHIP, AND HOW CAN WE TEACH THE YOUNG TO PRAY?
Children and adults do better with pictures and practical examples. I asked the Lord for several. Many came to mind, so I want to share some. You may have objects and pictures of your own that work better. The objective is to guide sensible prayer. How important is it? In Luke 18, Jesus told a parable about prayer and said, “…they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” He closes with a penetrating question, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Will he? Under these circumstances of disease and economic pressures, will he? So, prayer is in order, and here are some tools to help the young:
Show a bowl and sprinkle some pepper in it. Can the children see those small particles? A tiny virus is much smaller than a tiny piece of pepper. If you take one little grain of pepper and put it in your mouth, however, it’s hot! A virus is a tiny particle that is “hot” to the body and makes your insides sick. Since we cannot see it, it’s hard to detect until we feel bad. So, the child knows it’s really small, hard to find, hard to detect, but it still makes us sick. So, pray for those who are sick so the effects of those tiny little things can be stopped.
To make it more complicated, the tiny virus things stick to everything that we touch a lot, like door knobs and hands. Then you sprinkle a little of that pepper on a dark cloth or rug. Can you see it? No. Is it still there? Yes. If a virus is very very tiny and you cannot see it but it is still there, then we have to be careful what we touch so our bodies don’t get sick. Now you can take that as far as you need to, depending on what you want to children not to do. And, of course, there is nothing like your personal example demonstrated in front of them where you have touched something that is in a public place– like a door knob with something sticky on it. Then your hand is sticky. Most young people don’t like sticky hands, so then show them how to wash them.
Show a roll of toilet paper (since that seems to be scarce), or a carton of vegetables, or anything that seems to be hard to get. Now, children, who put it on the shelf? What does that person do? Where did the big box of things come from? The warehouse? Who delivered them? In what? Where did the truck come from?
The truck came from a big building with lots of trucks. How does stuff get to the big building? It came from a toilet paper maker (manufacturer). Where is that place? Where did the trees come from that the toilet paper is made of? Tree farmers have the trees. How do they grow the trees? How much room does it take? Who plants them? By the end of the conversation, the little person, even one from a big city, will have a much wider idea how to pray up that line and why each part of the line is important. If someone had taught this example to a city politician recently and he thought of it, he might have been more careful with what he said about farmers. But many of the rest of us complain about toilet paper. Maybe we need to pray for everyone along this line, too.
Show a vegetable or a jar of peanut butter (cannot get that very easily where I live) or some other food item. Put one on the table in front of the children as you explain. Go down the same line of reasoning and even a young child can begin to pray appropriately for the line of things that gets that item to the shelf in your home and on the plate to eat. Somewhere, someone had a tractor that planted plants. The farm might be here, but he might be half way around the globe. Then you can show a ship, or another country on a globe. Later, when you bring a food item home, remind them of God’s blessing that you were able to get it, especially if it was something you had not been able to get very easily. Show and tell, but have the right attitude when you do it. If you complain and grouse about what you cannot get and do not pray, they most certainly will have the same response.
Now the current calamity involves a breaking economy. Show a picture with coins like I have shown. You may not have lost your job, but some are losing them and others are getting temporarily furloughed or laid off. Hiding this from children is hard, because you separate yourself from reality to achieve or maintain a false sense of security. It is better for you to be real and to have a young person praying with you. So, use the coins. See the pile on the left. It’s big. The pile on the right? It is small. Last week you had the pile on the left. This week you (or your neighbor or co-worker) has the pile on the right. But everything else stays the same. The lights stay on (point to the lamp that is on); we have a home (point to the roof); and we have food in the house (open a cabinet or point to a shelf). Divide the coins on the left. A few coins pay for food (put coins with a food item), a few go to pay for the electricity (put a coins by the lamp that is lighted), and the rest help us keep our home (so put these coins by a little picture of the house) or gas in the car (use the child’s toy car or truck). Explain that something has changed. Our neighbor only has three coins and not a bunch. What will he do? You put all but one item of food away and turn off the lamp. The point will be made. Take it as far as you need to.
The Psalms are full of a wide variety of human circumstances. So is the New Testament. Things happen that make us sad, happy, thankful, or frustrated. David did not hide his feelings, but he always returned to God with them. The Bible is very open-faced about circumstances that are widely varying. So acting like we are OK all the time is generally a pretense, or we are unaware of hardships around us. Even Paul records he was at times perplexed (2 Corinthians 4:8), and some books were written to groups under extreme duress. So, we are not alone, but we cannot be unreal about the stresses or hardships, keeping them from children, or our friends, or our mates. So, pray for one another. And, have your children pray…with sense…with you.
Will he find faith on the earth? His question is real. Our answers and walk need to be real along with our prayer.