A few years back, a dear friend’s son almost died in car wreck. Teenage inexperience, late night darkness, and a bad intersection came together to mangle the car and injure a brain. The late night call from police, an ambulance driver’s choice to take the boy to a bigger hospital rather than the small one around the corner, his parents joined by church youth and adults to keep vigil in the waiting room came together to throw a lifeline to a boy who should have died but didn’t.
When we next saw our friend, he talked about the prayers that were said for his son. The adults prayed for strength, comfort, and – if it be thy will, O God – healing. There was a lot of hedging, not wanting to ask what was most desperately wanted: life instead of an early death.
The teens took a different approach. Gathered in the waiting room and around his bed, they asked for what they wanted: life for their friend. There was no hedging, just explicit requests. With a life on the line, they gave Jesus no wiggle room and no escape route. Either the prayers were answered with a yes, or they were answered with a no. It’s what was on the hearts of everyone, and the youth owned up to it directly.
There are many reasons why those of us with more than a few years of life pray without specifics; God’s presence and love cannot be reduced to one particular outcome, a larger perspective can let go of particulars, a willingness to cling to God no matter the outcome. But it may just be a lack of courage – hiding true wants in the hope that we won’t lose a child and faith all at once. And so we pray God, Lord Our God, Maker of the Universe, titles and impersonal addresses that in our distress allow us to keep our distance from the God who created us.
Children at prayer talk to the God they know – Jesus who welcomes children and feeds the hungry: the baby who was born in a barn, the boy who got left behind on a family trip, and the man who touched people when they needed help. They pray Lord Jesus Christ.
After five decades of life, I pray to Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit. No longer limited to one or the other (or the third), and fast losing a preference for one over the other two. I’m also trying to pray what’s on my heart rather than what I think I should pray. Letting Go and Holding Fast at the same time…
A Prayer for Children
Lord Jesus Christ, you received the children who came to you, receive also from the lips of your child this evening prayer. Shelter me under the protection of your wings that I may lie down in peace and sleep. Awaken me in due time that I may glorify you, for you alone are good and love all people.
A Prayer for Adults
Lord our God, whatever sins I have committed this day, in word, deed or thought, forgive me, for you are good and love all people. Grant me a peaceful and undisturbed sleep. Protect me from every abuse and plot of the evil one. Raise me up in due time that I may glorify you, for you are blessed, together with your only begotten Son, and your all holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
when ready for sleep, say:
Under the protection of your wings I shall be covered and fall asleep, for in you only, Lord, does my hope lie.
All Prayers are from Daily Prayers for Orthodox Christians (N. Michael Vaporis, ed.; Hellenic College/Holy Cross Greek School of Theology, trans; Brookline, Massachusetts: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1986, 2010 reprint), pp. 19, 23