With just a few exceptions, Praying with Grace has posted a new article every Tuesday morning since October of 2013. That's certainly not record-breaking longevity, but still, I feel somewhat elderly in the ephemeral Internet world. Each week, subscribers and other readers visit the blog to take a few minutes out of their day to slow down, regroup, and think about prayer.
I have learned that my readers avoid commenting on the blog itself. Instead, Facebook discussions flourish. I have also gratefully received hundreds of emails from readers wanting to extend the conversation privately. These are gifts.
Prayer is a gift. God's grace abounds.
Sadly, today's post is the final installment of Praying with Grace. In a few weeks, I will leave the Apostleship of Prayer. One of my final endeavors with the AoP will be our annual Family Retreat over Memorial Day weekend. This year the retreat is full to bursting, with thirteen families and three priests--nearly eighty people--signed on for the three-day adventure. The theme of this year's retreat is "'Mercifying' in the Heart of Christ." Please pray for us as we explore practical ways to live Jesus' mercy in our daily lives.
Eight months ago, Ave Maria Press published my book Pray with Me: Seven Simple Ways to Pray with Your Children. As I considered how to write my final post for Praying with Grace, I realized the afterword of my book says all I long to say to families about the gift of prayer. Prayer invites the Lord into our hearts; family prayer transforms the home.
Thank you for praying with me, and for allowing me to pray with you.
My younger brother John used to make homes for his stuffed animals. One of his favorite dolls was Bucky the Beaver from The Get-Along Gang. John used empty tissue boxes, paper towel rolls, cardboard, and a whole lot of markers to create a cozy home for Bucky. Lots of children enjoy creating homes like my brother did. Some use Legos or blocks, some use tree branches or elaborate store-bought sets, and others simply use their imaginations. We have a human instinct to build, to nest, to draw the pieces and people of our lives together in one place. We love home.
We parents get to make homes for our children. Many generous parents I know make homes also for foster children, stepchildren, and adopted children. Teachers and other adults often provide a loving home away from home, which is especially critical for children who know the pain of homelessness, broken homes, and unstable or harmful parent relationships. Our desire to make a home, and protect it, comes from God. God is a home builder.
Prayer can make a lasting home. This is not just a figure of speech; God actually dwells in us. The Gospel of John says, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (Jn 14:23). God, Creator of everything, wants to become tiny, to dwell within each of us. How this is possible, I do not fully understand. That it is possible I know from personal experience. Prayer helps me know. Prayer helps us touch God and stay in touch. Prayer is a conversation, a relationship, a way of life. We can find all sorts of ways to pray in daily life—this book explored seven interesting ways. The desire to pursue any or all of them is itself a gift from God. The instant we begin communicating with God, or wondering if we should, we are already in prayer.
Meeting children for the first time is always interesting. Imagine meeting a child people describe as “athletic.” How about “popular”? How would you feel knowing you were about to meet an “intelligent” child? A “prayerful” child? The idea of prayerful children intrigues me, helping me picture young people who know they are created by God. A loving God. A personal God who is interested in every detail of their lives. A God who has beautiful plans of hope for them. Children who know that God will always take care of them have the power to love others with the Heart of Jesus. Children who know, deep in their hearts, that God is always with them can live lives of gratitude and joy. Yes, these are the same children who will sometimes make bad choices, break our hearts, and bewilder us, but their personal habit of prayer will keep them connected to heaven, even in the tough times.
Let’s pray for our children. Let’s pray with our children, encouraging them to have confidence in God’s love for them, to return God’s love in prayer and service, to give thanks, to cultivate a habit of daily prayer, and to offer each day to God for the good of others.
Eventually, we will no longer remain with our children. Any number of circumstances may begin the separation. Death will complete it, at least on earth. Even then, our perfect gentle Lord will watch over our children for us: “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you,” he says (Jn 14:18). And when Jesus comes to our children, there will be no tears. No, when Jesus comes, our children will know precisely who approaches; they will recognize him from their prayers.