Just before Palm Sunday, I took a 1.7 cubic feet refrigerator from my basement, where we keep it for guests, over to the church. As the church planned to offer communion every day from Palm Sunday through Easter, on a drop in bases most days, I thought having a small refrigerator up on stage to hold the elements would be handy.
My daughter often comes over to the church with me when I practice music; she enjoys dancing while I play and sing, and she noticed the refrigerator on the stage. “What’s that?” she asked. I told her it was a refrigerator, to which she she replied, “I wish I had my own refrigerator.” I thought she made a bit of an absurd wish. What does a three-year-old need with their own refrigerator? I let her know that was not something she needed. Yet like the widow of Luke 18:1-8, she persisted.
The refrigerator remained at the church for two weeks, and every time my daughter saw it she would comment. “I always wished for my own little refrigerator.” Did you notice the difference in her comment? I didn’t. I heard my own, so I gave her the same answer as before, but the key word as her petition evolved was little.
Finally, I asked her why she wanted a refrigerator. She replied, “If I had a little refrigerator, I would open it.” That made perfect sense. My wife and I both grew up with refrigerators that had the freezer on top, and that is what we bought for ourselves, until we moved into our new house. Our new house came with a bottom freezer refrigerator, which meant an average three-year-old would not be capable of opening the refrigerator, something we were able to at that age.
When I brought the little refrigerator home, I set it on the floor by the kitchen table, and plugged it in. After evening story time with milk, I informed my daughter that if she couldn’t finish her milk, we had a place to put it. She wanted to know where, so I pointed to the white 1.7 cubic feet refrigerator. She smiled and said, “I always wished for a little refrigerator that I could open.”
Children need to learn how to express themselves, and fathers need to learn to listen. Part of petition prayer to God our Father is not merely knowing what we want, but ourselves knowing why we want it. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures (James 4:3). We also have a Lord, Jesus, who by his example teaches us to pray. One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say . . .” (Luke 11:1-2). Even when we do not know yet how to ask, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts know the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God (Romans 8:26-27). Furthermore, we have a Father who not only listens, but has infinite perception. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:8).
My prayer for today is: “Lord, teach me to pray, and to listen.”
photo credit: Paul Tillman