The other night, Jacob was getting snuggled into bed...errr, make that snuggled into his blankets and animals on the floor...and we said his bedtime prayer. It's the same one I said growing up, and I figured I'd stick with that one since I knew it well and it rhymed, which I figured would make it easier to learn. I would say it every night with him, probably starting around his third birthday once he was talking sufficiently, and he picked it up relatively quickly.
Anyway, the other night he insisted on saying it himself, and when he finished, out of nowhere he launched into another prayer: "Dear Lord, thank you for this day, thank you for these kids, thank you for this classroom...and all God's children said, AAAA-MEN!" That last part was LOUD.
Now, I wish I could take credit for his spontaneous prayer, but as you may have guessed from its contents, it's very obviously spawning from his time in Sunday School. I'm glad he's learning things in Sunday School, because he rarely gives us much insight into his experiences there. We can see the stuff he brings home, and once in a while he'll recall one of the stories or lessons he learned, but it's usually like pulling teeth. But here it came, out of the blue.
As I said, I wish I could take credit for it, but I suppose I wasn't sure when the right time was to teach him to pray. Maybe I should have been doing it from the beginning--and maybe next time I will--but I guess I had some concerns. First, I didn't really want it to be just this thing we always did. I wanted him to have the capacity to understand what we were doing and why, so it had some meaning beyond being a nightly ritual. I also didn't want it to lead to so many questions. My goal is always to keep bedtime simple and quick--potty, toothbrushing, pajamas, two books, prayers and bed. Adding an extra, off-the-cuff prayer seemed to be inviting delays. Jacob likes things to be just-so, and I can see him stalling until he thinks of all of the necessary elements of his prayer, or asking a million questions about the contents of his prayer. I guess that's the price we could pay to have a seasoned pray-er, and we may have to go down that road soon regardless. Because, obviously, now it's here and we might as well do it right.
He's prayed pretty much like that for the past three nights, all on his own, and tonight I finally suggested some alternate prayers--thanking God for Mommy and Daddy, and for our house, and for sports. Then he said something--not sure if he was trying to say "forgiveness"--but whatever he said sounded like it and triggered that suggestion as well. We are still working on toning down the volume of the "Amen", but as long as he's praying, I'll just plug my ears for now (yes, it's that loud.).
If nothing else, it just shows you that Sunday School is a much better way for him to spend that hour, at least for now. He sat in church for three years and barely noticed a thing--aside from Easter time when things were always a little different--but just a handful of weeks at Sunday School and the kid is doing his own prayers out of the blue. Maybe it wouldn't have resonated as strongly had the same teaching come from me, though. It wouldn't be the first time he's listened better to someone else besides his parents, that's for sure. It's also a reminder that I need to up the ante and encourage him even more. He's a smart boy and he picks certain things up quickly, so we might as well start the process in earnest now. And knowing what he can pick up, I also need to walk the walk a little better to make sure I'm being the best example I can be. It can only make things better down the road, for more reasons than one.
In the meantime, I'm grateful for the reminders and my heart is warmed by this newfound skill. It is something to be grateful for and I'm eager to hear his prayers for years to come, if only to gain more insight into the amazing little boy we've been blessed with.