It makes sense, so we do it, though I'll admit it doesn't always seem worth the effort (an hour to get them into bed and an hour of listening to them laugh, cry, scream, sing, what-have-you can really make one question the sacred "routine"). Nevertheless, sometimes it does seem to work, so we stick to it like Winnie the Pooh in a honey pot.
The routine is simple enough: brush teeth, jammies, stories, prayer, sing, hugs & kisses, Bonsoir my darlings! (That is, goodnight!) And this has become our sacred, family routine night after night. Every night, I find myself exhausted and wondering how in the world I will do it all again tomorrow...and then...we pray. I hear Daphne throw her arms up and mumble the intonation of "a-MEN" and I hear the childish words of Matilda speak to Jesus with distinct and simple direction. She talks to him like He is right there, so emphatically, like I can see the little ball bouncing over her words like a Karaoke machine as soon as she speaks them. Of course, her prayers pretty much always go the same way, so there is a delightful predictability about them too.
Dear Jesus, Thank you this day. Thank you daddy, mommy, Daphne. Thank you dance class. Thank you toys. Amen!
Or something like that. Playful, honest, sincere, and maybe even a little bit silly sometimes. Some nights she will wholeheartedly jump right into praying, even announcing "My turn!" and other nights (many nights) she will stubbornly refuse. Unless she's not feeling well, we don't allow this. Not praying is not an option in our home no matter how cranky you are. You will listen to mommy pray, you will listen to daddy pray, you will think of at least one thing to thank God for. The end.
That might sound harsh, but we're planting roots of discipline and obedience here. And besides, prayer is one of those things that as soon as you start doing it, you want to keep doing it more. The more comfortable she gets with it, the easier it flows out of her little lips, and I'm certain to be careful what I wish for or this hour-long bedtime routine will turn into a marathon if Matilda's prayers turn into endless conversations. (She's a talker - it could happen!)
But, she's not the only one learning from this nighttime routine of praying as a family. I'm learning so much from her simple little benedictions.
This may come as a surprise to you (seeing as I'm rather extroverted and outspoken about my feelings) but, I don't love to pray out loud. It's uncomfortable. It feels like a lot of pressure. I might say the wrong thing and someone will judge me this way or that way. I might sound too religious. I might not sound reverent enough. I might come across as self-righteous or judgmental. I might mispronounce something or start to cry because it's getting too emotional. I might blubber and become inaudible. I might ramble on too long and not leave anything else for anyone to pray about. I might forget someone's prayer request. I might yawn in the middle. I might fall asleep. I might get caught with my eyes open. And, oh yeah, how can I really be talking to JESUS when I'm worrying about MYSELF this whole time?
Yup. All of that could happen. It's true. And, okay, maybe those aren't real concerns when I'm in my own home with my little family...but, as soon as I step beyond my comfort zone and extend myself out to a situation where I'm willing to get real and vulnerable, certainly I am going to combat thoughts of insecurity when I talk to my Jesus in front of you. OUR Jesus, I mean.
Prayer is really intimate. Prayer is an unbelievable gift that I am so grateful for. I honestly don't know how people make it through life without it, because that would just completely debilitate me. But, if there is anyone I completely strip down the facade for, it's Jesus (cause, newsflash, He already knows everything anyway, right?) But, I'm just me to Jesus. I'm not "holier me" or "super-put-together me" or "perfect me" or "extra-religious me". Nope - I'm still just ME, and Jesus wants me - hot mess wailing and all.
THIS is what I love about listening to Matilda pray. That raw, frustrated, completely honest and sometimes irrational warrior of life. Cause, if I could be so blunt, sometimes there are moments when I know I need to get on my knees and talk to God and I find my insides punching and screaming and refusing to obey. I want comfort and MY way and when it's convenient for ME. I'm a ridiculous child.
But, God wants to hear that too. He wants it all. So, I buckle at my knees in awe of His grace and patience with me, and I give in with relentless gratitude and get reminded of my NEED for Him once more. And then I just barf up the truth to Him and He makes sense of my words and listens to my voice as if it was a melodious symphony of worship.
Prayer will never come out perfect. I'm not perfect. THAT'S THE POINT. My imperfection and need for Jesus reminds me of my longing to be in relationship with Him, which ignites my desire for prayer and my gratitude for the restoration I feel when that need is met...which reminds me of my need...and so forth.
That's the power of Christ. Only He can turn my whining into worship and my pouting into praise. And that's a routine worth sticking with. Amen!
Psalm 8:2 (The Message)
Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you;
toddlers shout the songs
That drown out enemy talk,
and silence atheist babble.