Last time I visited with my niece, when it was time to say goodbye, I told her how much I would miss her. She said, “Well, maybe when you go home, you could write me a letter.”
A few weeks later, I talked with her on the phone and I mentioned that I was sending her a letter like I had promised. She loved to hear this, and in her excitement, she suggested that I include a little surprise present for her to open. I smiled on the other end of the phone because only a four-year-old has the right blend of innocence and spontaneity to tell you just what they want without being rude. I told her I would love to send her a surprise present and the delight in her voice was all the reward I needed. I was happy, she was happy, and so— she kept going.
She proceeded by saying, “Oh, and you could send brother a present too!” (Sweet of her to think of him, wasn’t it?) “And wrap his in blue paper,” she continued, “And wrap mine in a pretty bow…” Now I was really laughing. I wondered how much more specific she would get.
“Okay?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said, “Great idea, sweetheart. I’ll do it.”
Just then my mom got on the phone, chuckling. She had heard her granddaughter placing her order. We both laughed about that for a moment and then my mom told me where the request for blue wrapping had come from. Apparently, that morning my niece had earned a little gift as a reward for good behavior. The present was wrapped in blue. My nephew (her younger brother) wanted it so badly that she decided to let him have it, and choose a different gift instead. That endearing example made me want to fulfill her request even more.
So, I wrapped up a little, simple something for each of them. For my niece, a home-made headband with a pink bow. For my nephew a miniature airplane. I carefully followed my niece’s instructions as I wrapped them and sent them away to the kiddos.
I wondered if, when the presents arrived, my niece would even remember that she had given me those instructions or notice that I had followed them. But either way, I still wanted to do what she’d asked. Why? Because I could. Because I knew exactly what she wanted and I knew I could give it to her. Because I love her and she asked so sweetly.
As I thought about my exchange with my little niece, I realized that it was a wonderful analogy for prayer.
She bible teaches, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent. If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matt 7:7-11)
I believe that God loves us. He is the perfect Father. He hears our prayers when we pray in faith. I think that often, the problem with our prayers is that we aren’t specific. My niece told me exactly what she wanted, so I gave her exactly what she wanted. I think that the Lord wants us to include Him in our lives and really tell Him what we need and why. I think He wants us to take our feelings to Him in prayer and explain our desires.
I believe that prayer is the way that we bring our hearts in alignment with God. Here is one of my favorite passages about Prayer:
“As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are his children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part. Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.” (Reference)
In my life, I have been greatly blessed through prayer. My daily prayers help me meditate about things I’m working through, like a journal. Often when I pray, I feel a tug in my heart and a reminder of who I want to be. It always helps me know what to do and to have courage. My prayers have been answered more times than I can count. I know God hears and answers prayers. After my experience with my niece, I think I understand prayer a little better. It is completely irresistible when someone you love asks for something you know you can give them. Something you want to give them because they asked so sweetly. It is delightful for both the giver and receiver.