The Next Billy Graham
“Mom, I got chosen to say the prayer at chapel tomorrow!”
This was the sentence that started it all. When I was teaching fifth grade at Lakeland Christian and my son was in Mrs. Stump’s third grade class, he came home from school and excitedly told me that he had been chosen to say the opening prayer at chapel. Not the pledge to the American flag. Not the pledge to the Bible. Not the pledge to the Christian flag, or anything else that we pledge to…it was the prayer, and as a fifth grade teacher, I knew that not just any kid got chosen to say the prayer.
Typically, when an elementary kid prays at chapel it goes something like this…”please help us not to move our manner stick” or “…have to stand on the wall at recess”; whatever other creative form of punishment that teacher implements to maintain some type of order in the classroom.
Well, not my kid! I had big plans for his prayer debut! He was the kid who was chosen to bring all the elementary kids before God’s throne of grace, and it was going to be deep and memorable!
I talked to my son the night before about good ways to start his prayer and encouraged him by saying that he always prays the sweetest prayers, which was true, but I may have been a little aggressive in my chapel prayer coaching. I reminded him how all the other kids say the same thing, and how I really wanted him to pray from his heart instead of saying the typical elementary kid prayer. I mean he was chosen to pray because he was such a gifted pray-er.
The moment finally arrived, and my son took the mic. I looked around the room thinking that we might have an alter call after this prayer which was going to bring everyone to their knees. The teachers in the room would come to me after the prayer and say things like,
“Clearly the gospel is being taught in that home.”
“That boy is probably going to be the next Billy Graham!”
Everything started out beautifully.
“God, thank you that we have the privilege of going to a Christian school.”
Yes, great intro!
“Thank you for giving us such wonderful teachers.”
Okay, that’s sweet, and maybe earning brownie points. And then a pause.
A long pause.
Is he crying? Why is he not talking?!
At this point I’m just wanting him to say, “in Jesus name, Amen!” He is pausing and I know why…he is trying to make it deep and meaningful like I told him to. He is remembering my prayer coaching from the night before, and he is thinking, and I am dying!
I hear a loud inhale and I thank God that he is finally going to end it, but nope, he doesn’t. He says something that he obviously thinks is very deep and moving. He holds the microphone real close and as he starts talking, I’m positive that the sound booth operator has increased the volume to the highest level as my son says,
“And God……….please never let the homeless people die!”
What!!!… Why???… What the heck!!… Never???…. Like you want the homeless to live forever?!!! I mean, at least say “provide for them”, but no, just let them live forever in their state of homelessness??!?
I heard a chuckle in the room and peeked my eyes open to look at my friend Heather Rhoden, who was peeking her eyes open to look at me with a smile. As you can imagine, after chapel several teachers said something about how “cute” his prayer was…no mention of Billy Graham.
As a parent, I have struggled with having unrealistic expectations for my boys. I want them to act a certain way and I want to hide the difficult times where things aren’t perfect. This can be summed up in one word. Pride. It’s my own pride that leads me to want my kid to say a prayer that is “better” than the other kids. It is my pride that wants others to look at my boys’ behavior and think better of me as a parent. Pride is exhausting. Trying to maintain the image of having obedient children who get good grades, don’t struggle with disrespect, always obey the teacher, and set a godly example is draining. It’s only when I finally lay down my pride issues that I am able to truly rest. I have to rest in God’s sovereignty and His promises for my family. No amount of stress and worry will benefit me, but going to God’s truths in scripture is a powerful tool to discern the true intentions of my heart.
“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.”Psalm 127:2
All of my worry, manipulating, working and striving are for nothing if I am not trusting God and His ultimate plan. I need to remember that it is suffering and struggle that will help my children realize their need for a Savior. I have to lay down my own prideful desires daily and trust that the sovereign creator is in control. Spending time with my Savior is a must as I fill my heart with His truths about who He says I am. And who knows…maybe somewhere in the world, because of a sweet third grade boy’s prayer, there is a homeless person who will live forever.