News from the Tennessee Valley Religion

Rev. John Jude

Learning to pray like Jaylen

My wife and I are blessed with five wonderful sons and out of those five sons we are doubly blessed with two grandsons, a 3-year-old, Jaylen, and a 1-year-old, Jaden. One of the things they can be sure of is that, being the grandsons of a minister, they will spend time in church and other worship settings.

Quite naturally, you would expect one who is raised in the church to acquire what I call "churchiness." For instance, I grew up in the church. I can recall my brother and I getting home from church and acting out for the next week the things that we experienced in worship. My brother and I could recite every prayer, song, sermon and anything else that happened. We could identify an individual by how and what was prayed for and usually it was the same each week. I recall one of the most pious officers of our church as he prayed of his past condition and the great lengths that our Lord was willing to go to save him.

Therefore, I would not think it unusual for my grandchildren to pick up things as I did. In the area of prayer, my grandson, Jaylen, is my greatest teacher.

How or what, you may well ask, could a 3-year-old teach about prayer? That is understandable because we normally teach our children to repeat prayers like: "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, and if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take."

As adults we read books and dissect prayer in the Bible, and as a minister I teach people to pray like this or like that. But it is the theological depth of Jaylen's prayer life that amazes me. It is his eagerness to lead prayers at Wednesday night fellowship meals. He loves to pray before bedtime, before meals and any other time we assemble to pray. He hears his granddaddy pray. He comes to intercessory prayer meetings and hears us pray. Jaylen's prayers are dominated by four words that many of us with all of our "churchiness" and theological learning would do well to remember and to adopt.

Those words are "Father, I thank you." It really does not matter what he says after that. The fact is that before he does or says anything else he says "Father, I thank you." In those words, there is a humble sense of confidence that God is in control. In those words I hear, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose." In those few words I hear, "And we are more than conquerors ..." In those words I hear, "If God be for us who can be against us?"

The apostle Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:6 that we can we bring all of our concerns to God without reservation, and he reminds us to be thankful. I am learning from Jaylen that no matter what I may face in my adult world or the depth of learning that I may achieve theologically, doctrinally or otherwise, there is a lot to be gained from knowing how to be thankful.

Oh, yes, I am learning a lot from Jaylen. Jesus himself said, "Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive and accept and welcome the Kingdom of God like a little child (does) positively shall not enter it at all."

You know what? I have decided that when I grow up I want to be just like Jaylen.

The Rev. John Jude is pastor of Pleasant Grove Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Athens. He is one of several local ministers writing religion columns for THE DAILY. For more information, call Melanie Smith at 340-2468 on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.

Rev. John Jude Rev. John Jude

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