It was the day after my mother’s funeral. I felt so tired and empty, greatly missing my mother’s loving presence…wanting to pray and yet not knowing what to pray for or even where to begin.
I sat down at my computer and pulled up an email from my pastor. He had typed out the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and sent it to me, inserting my mother’s name in all the appropriate places in the text. It was so moving, so full of hope and encouragement. The tears began to flow once again as they had in the previous weeks of my mother’s illness leading up to her death.
My little 4-year-old granddaughter, Nikki, was playing on the floor not far away. She had been watching me, and with a sorrowful look of concern on her little face, she came over and laid her hand gently on my arm. “Do you want me to pray for you, Meemaw?” she said.
“Oh, that would be wonderful, Honey,” I replied.
“Okay,” she said, and taking a deep breath, she bowed her head, closed her eyes and folded her little hands. What seemed like ages passed, and still there was silence. Finally, she looked up at me and said, “I think I am going to have to wait until I’m bigger to do this!”
I smiled, trying so hard not to laugh, and gave her a big hug. She would have been devastated to think that I might not be taking her efforts to help seriously. She knew what to do; she just didn’t know quite what to say. Her mother had always helped her pray by supplying the words and then Nikki would repeat them. She had never had to go solo before.
But in fact, her efforts to pray for me did have the desired effect. It was as if she had prayed the most eloquent and beautiful prayer ever spoken.
There are many occasions in life when the problems seem overwhelming, and I seem so inadequate. Those are the times when I too am tempted to cry out to God, “I think I am going to have to wait until I am (spiritually) bigger to do this.”
God reminded me, through this little child, that he understands and he has provided for me when I don’t know how to pray. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (Romans 8:26-27).
Pat Halford is the wife of Christian Odyssey editor John Halford, and the proud grandmother of six wonderful children. She lives in Indiana.