Last week my two-year-old son climbed into his blue Thomas the Train bed and signaled for me to join him by patting his pillow. Before he goes to bed every night, we pray. I started the holy moment that night the way I do every night by saying, “Thank you God for…” and my son finished the thought with, “Mama”.
“Yes!” I thought. He almost always says Papa or Nana first so I was feeling pretty good that night. We repeated the pattern until he had named all of his family members ending with his little brother who was notably far down the list. Right before I was about to say “amen,” my son went off script and said, “Thank you, lawnmower.”
I looked at him quizzically and he looked straight back, deep into my eyes, and said, “Jesus, lawnmower for Charlie please.” My son had definitely just asked Jesus for a lawnmower. Earlier that evening he had played with a friend’s toy lawnmower. He could push it, it made noise, if he had the right angle he could knock his little brother over with it. It was basically the best toy he had ever seen.
I said amen and goodnight to my son and left rolling my eyes. Growing up in a home of all sisters and no brothers, I understand little girls and their love for mermaids, tutus, and fairy wings. I’m still teaching myself to appreciate my sons’ passion for lawnmowers, dump trucks, and anything that sounds like a fart.
Although this little prayer of his made me laugh throughout the week, I also came to realize that this prayer was a victory in his spiritual journey. I needed to praise God for this growth.
At Their Age, Praying for Lawnmowers is a Big Deal
Although he is only two, I have been praying with him at night for months. When we first started he only listened and could barely say juice, let alone Jesus. Over time, he slowly started to take part as he learned more words and as prayer became routine. That night, however, was the first time he prayed for something without prompting. Not only was he thanking God for something he loved, but he wanted to make a request as well. He asks me for things he needs and wants—which in toddler translation means he falls on the floor and gives a Meryl Streep worthy performance of despair when he doesn’t get it. But, this was different. Our prayer time is an intimate moment where he has just recently gained the confidence to repeat after me. His willingness to engage, more than just repeat what I say, is a major win.
I recently picked up, “Big Truths for Young Hearts” by Bruce Ware. Each chapter in the book focuses on a theological concept while supplying a study, discussion questions, and suggestions for scripture to memorize with your kids. When asked why he decided to write a theological guide for parents and kids, Ware responded:
The beginnings of this book go back nearly twenty years, to when I was teaching theology at Western Seminary, Portland Oregon. One night it occurred to me that since [my daughters] loved being with us the last part of the day and weren’t quite ready for sleep yet, I might consider co-opting the time and using it do what I loved most and what they needed most (though they wouldn’t have known this yet)- teach them the glorious truths of the Christian faith. . . . Of course, I didn’t explain to them that I was basically teaching them the same theology sequence I taught at seminary, but that is exactly what I did.
Ware started his two-year-old and six-year-old with divine revelation, the living and written Word, and took them all the way through eschatology and heaven. Though Ware admits that not every bedtime discussion was understood perfectly every time, his daughters describe their appreciation for his investment in their spiritual development and how greatly it impacted their love for the scriptures. Their “bedside theology” was paramount to their faith.
In Matters of Faith, We Crawl Before We Walk
We know that discipleship for kids starts in the home. It is our responsibility as commissioned parents of future believers to guide our kids to understand the good news of redemption. For a toddler, we celebrate when they can recognize the Bible or Jesus in a picture. Then in preschool we can praise God when our kids see Jesus as a friend and memorize Biblical stories. This all leads towards elementary where we see our kids recognize their need for a savior and grieve over their sin. Over time these theological concepts build on one another until the Gospel captures their souls. It is never too early to lead our kids to the Word.
Our special prayer time is the first step in his journey. He didn’t pray for the lawnmower tonight, and his little brother was promoted to third place so we took a couple steps in the right direction. He may have ended with “Go pack go, amen,” but I’ll still take it.
-Lauren Whitley (Kids Ministry Associate)