Praying for parking spaces
When you’re driving around the busy car park of the local supermarket, would you pray for a parking space? What would a child do? Sam Donoghue explores how we might approach the kingdom of God as a child.
For those of us who work with children in churches and who read it a bit, maybe even go to the odd conference, there will be certain Bible passages that come up more than others. Most common is surely Jesus taking a child and saying to his disciples that to enter the kingdom of God you have to become like that child. Of course, in doing that Jesus breaks many rules of good all-age worship (come on now Jesus you can’t use a child as a visual aid) but he also does something incredibly deep and profound.
However, he doesn’t really explain it much and so there’s space for us to wonder about what he might have been getting at. We even may find that it says different things to us at different times as the lens of our context draws new things out. I’ve heard it being explained as about simple trust, grace, identification with the lowest, among a few others but came across a new perspective on it the other day when reading a book on prayer.
The book in question was Pete Grieg’s excellent new one, How to Pray. One of the things I like about it is that he tackles a few prayer issues head on: unanswered prayer, what if you are really bad at concentra… Oooo a squirrel! He also asks the question of whether we should pray for parking spaces. I would probably say no, it seems ridiculous in a world so full of pain and need that I would pray for the God who made the universe to intervene into his creation to make my life – which is already one of the nicest in human history – a bit more convenient. However, it’s probably fair to say that a child would. Grieg reminded me that although praying for God to be in ‘the little things’ can seem childish that isn’t a reason not to do it, in fact it might be a reason to do it!
Children don’t mind asking, partly because they are used to having to depend on others. As adults, we are rather more used to being independent and having to sort stuff out ourselves. Pete Grieg says that praying like a child helps to remind us of our dependence on God and fosters in us an attitude of gratitude towards our heavenly Father which we lose if we give up asking God, only saving him for the big things. I loved that, one of ways children show us how to enter the kingdom is by modelling dependence and gratitude towards a God who is interested in all our lives, not just the big stuff.
I say this a lot, that we need children in our churches because without them there will be no one to show the adults how to enter the kingdom. Yet the challenge here is are we paying attention, are we seeing the lessons, are taking the time to learn? I hope reading this might inspire you a bit so that next time you’re on the rota you’ll realise that you are there to learn and for your faith to grow; just pay attention!