We're still in South Carolina visiting my dad who is still in the hospital. We went to Chick-fil-a for lunch today. Norah heard a bunch of kids saying, "God is great. God is good..." before they ate. She turned and looked at them for a few seconds and then turned back to me and asked, "What are those kids doing?"
I almost choked on my fry. I had a parenting crisis over this, in fact. No one else in the restaurant overheard Norah's question, thankfully... but I realized at that moment how very different of a parent I am than I thought I would be, if that makes any sense at all. As unbelievable as it may sound, it never even occurred to me to teach my kid that prayer. I mean, I pray. We pray as a family. And, we teach Norah to pray. But, I guess I avoided this prayer and others like it, subconsciously, because I don't want Norah to pray mindlessly or out of force of habit. Ever. And, to defend myself from the terrible accusations I heard in my mind over Norah's not knowing this prayer, I came up with this line of reasoning...
I think some people want their children to be Christian out of habit. They want them to act like Christians without even thinking about it. But, I take issue with this (and I bet you can tell by my kid's unruly behavior at times). To me, mindlessly talking to God (or mindlessly doing anything else under heaven before God) seems like an insult to God. Isn't that what God meant when He said people were stiffed necked? ...They behaved as if God were far away somewhere when He was, in fact, right there with them. So, praying as if God isn't really there, but far away in heaven somewhere... seems far worse than not praying at all.
And, come to think of it, when I say "pray" I may mean something very different than other people mean. I mean that I live in an ongoing relationship with God. So, I go on praying all day... In computer terms, it's like having a chat window open with him throughout the day. When I watch television, I am in fellowship with him, so it is like He's sitting next to me on the couch watching Man vs. Wild, too. And, when I spend time in prayer, it's like I am just having a long, uninterrupted conversation with someone who has been at my side all day.
It's unnatural for me to speak to God or even think of teaching my kids to speak to Him like He is far away in heaven. And, I'd hate for them to rattle off words, no matter how true, that they didn't mean. That would be like handing God a thank you card without looking Him in the eyes. If we are thankful for the food we have been given, we just say so. To ourselves silently or out loud. Right then. We just say so. We act as if the God we are speaking to is sitting right there at the table about to have lunch with us.
The difference may be subtle, but it's big.