C. S. Lewis writes in his chapter “Let’s Pretend” in Mere Christianity that as we grow in our walk with the Lord, sometimes we need to fake it. As children, many of us have reveled in games of pretend. Lewis says we need to do this to grow spiritually. And growing spiritually is huge in the process of conveying who Jesus is to the children in our lives. Lewis says we need to act like better Christians than we actually are.
That idea is jarring and smells of the worst charge against Christianity: hypocrisy.
Until we think about what he really means by this . . . . Think about babies. We talk to them immediately–telling them how much we love them, how cute they are, etc. We never, ever think, “I’d better wait to talk until my baby initiates the conversation. He doesn’t know what I’m saying yet anyway.” No. We fake it. We start off pretending they know what we’re saying, and eventually they do.
In the same way Lewis tells us to act like nicer people than we actually are.
Sometimes we need to act loving toward others when we don’t feel up to it. We need to fake it. It reminds me of Walter Trobisch’s Love Is a Feeling to be Learned. We certainly don’t always feel loving towards everyone around us, just as our children don’t. But we can train ourselves to act in kind and loving ways. We need to remind ourselves and our children that the reason we need to act loving is that we are the children of the most loving person on earth: our Holy Triune God. We need to reflect His character to those around us. By doing this, we can allow the Spirit of God to shape us into better people.
We grow into the people Jesus wants us to be—by pretending we already are.
How does this help us grow spiritually? If you are like me, your devotional life has its ups and downs. One day you feel super motivated to read your Bible. Other times you feel stuck and not at all motivated. Feelings vacillate. Unlike our feelings, God’s promises are secure. The more faithful we are in reading his word, the more he will bless us through it. Some days we need to pretend we want to read the Bible. Just do it. But we need to remember not to read the Bible out of guilt.
God wants our hearts—not feelings of guilt or shame.
I love that in Jesus Calling Sarah Young reminds us not to feel ashamed that our minds wander. She says God knows we are that way, because that’s the way he made us. We just have to work at getting back on track. Just like with making time for reading the Bible.
What if you plan now for a time to read the Bible tomorrow? Even if it’s only for five minutes. Then write yourself a note somewhere to help you remember. Choose a time your house is usually quiet. Preferably before you check your phone or go online. For me, deciding to spend this time before checking for messages allowed me to be much more consistent and enjoy devotional time much more.
But we need to be careful not to beat ourselves up about missing planned times with God.
Just keep moving forward. Give it a try, and wait for God to bless you abundantly with a strong sense of his presence in your life. Your child will notice that too. Just as children love acting more grown up than they really are–and learning in the process–we can all learn by taking on the behaviors and character of our God. Even when we don’t feel like it. As Walter Trobisch says, the abundant feelings will follow.
Are you much more comfortable praying silently than out loud?
Do you think others always “pray better prayers” than you do?
Do you feel blessed when others pray for you either silently or out loud?
Do you feel a special blessing when people pray for you in your hearing?
If you answered yes to all of the above, you are like the majority of us. Most of us feel blessed when other people pray for us but not comfortable praying out loud. Praying in front of others can make us feel a bit insecure.
This feeling is so normal that it motivated Jesus’ disciples to ask him to teach them how to pray. It also motivated him to teach them the prayer most of us refer to as The Lord’s Prayer.
Doing anything in front of others can make us feel self-conscious, especially praying. All the more reason to start praying out loud with our children at a very early age—and very simply. If we can remember that prayer is talking to God rather than performing for others in the room, we will all do better.
Children who first hear prayers in simple language—without any special churchy words—will easily learn to talk to God themselves naturally.
Simple prayers thank God for food, for family, for friends. They ask for healing of loved ones. They ask for God’s blessing on us for a scary day tomorrow. Or they praise God for being a loving God and for caring for us.
Such simple prayers just talk to God about the ordinary stuff of life. We can best model talking to God well by talking to him the way we do with our children and our friends.
I wish my parents had always prayed out loud with us in restaurants. The first time I was with someone who prayed out loud before dinner in a restaurant, I was weirded out. The first time my sister prayed with me over the phone felt very strange. I don’t know why.
I know God understands how phones work much better than I do. But I had to be led by others to pray in those ways that were uncomfortable for me at first. So it took a while for me to feel comfortable praying that way with my children, but it took them much less time to learn than it did for me.
Most of us feel less self-conscious with our children than with other adults. So it will probably be much easier than praying out loud with them than with adults.
The main benefit is that it will make it easier for our children to pray naturally. A side benefit is that it will probably make us feel more comfortable praying out loud with adults. Take baby steps, and watch God bless you.
How were you first introduced to prayer? Have you had positive experiences or negative experiences with trying to pray out loud with children?
When I was recovering from a traumatic break-up years ago, God gave me a promise: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
Relief washed over me. I read that as a promise that my loving the Lord would result in his granting me my intense desire for a godly husband and a family. As I began to claim the promise of that verse, I thought about it a lot. God showed me that the focus of the verse was not on love for him—but on delight in him.
But it was a bit confusing. What exactly was delight? I remembered Edmund disobeying Aslan for the White Witch’s Turkish Delight in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but I didn’t know how a person could truly delight in God.
I had always delighted in small children, but I needed to grow into true delight in the Lord. How could I learn to turn to him and feel my heart brighten as it does when I see an adorable toddler?
How could I revel in ordinary moments spent with God and in seeing his work in my daily life? Especially when my life was not going according to my plan.
How could I delight in God, when it seemed he was not answering my deepest prayers?
I began to look for ways to enjoy him in my private Bible reading and prayer time. Eventually I discovered that writing down my prayers and thoughts in a prayer journal helped keep me focused. When my mind wanders now, I can pray about those concerns and not forget my focus.
But a strange thing happened. I realized that as God had increased my delight in him, he had lessened my intense desire for a husband and family. I believed I could even be happy without them. I knew that God was my ultimate desire. Wow. What a change in my heart.
Two years later he granted my early desire: a godly husband. Then three wonderful daughters. But God taught me through that struggle what true delight in the Lord is and how important it is that I share that with those around me.
We probably all identify with Julie Andrews’ song about her favorite things—also loving snowflakes on eyelashes and little girls in dresses with sashes.
Do we also delight in time spent praying and reading the Bible? If so, how do we convey that to our children? How will our children see our delight in the Lord?
What is your prayer for the child or children in your life?
The other day, surprisingly, required praying with my baby, my fifteen-month-old grandson.
An extremely loving little boy, he is very sensitive to other people’s pain. He was playfully doing peek-a-boo with me using pieces of clothing and then a lap-desk. A little over exuberant, he unintentionally bopped me hard on the nose with the lap-desk.
As I yelped in pain, my friend ran for some ice for my throbbing nose. My grandson’s face crumpled in tears. I told him it would be okay, hugged him, and told him I was not mad at him or at the lap-desk. I told him the ice would make it better. He kept crying softly. Later he whimpered every time he looked at the ice and cried whenever I put the ice to my nose.
I told him that Jesus would make it better.
Also that I knew he had not tried to hurt me and neither had the lap-desk. He did not seem to believe me. Seeing nothing was working, I suggested we should pray to Jesus right then. I don’t know what his face looked like as I was praying, because my eyes were closed with my hands folded around him in my lap.
I thanked Jesus that I knew he was going to make my nose better.
Then I thanked him that my grandson hadn’t meant to hurt me and that the lap-desk hadn’t either. Next I thanked him for loving us so much and told him we loved him too. Amen.
When I opened my eyes, after praying with my baby, his pain was visibly gone.
He was able to engage in play again. For a minute or so he still took pained little breaths whenever I applied the ice. But he seemed to know that things were going to be okay now. Obviously, he could not have understood all of my words.
Nevertheless, Jesus gave him peace. Through my prayer.
I’m sure I never prayed in similar moments with my own babies or toddlers. I had no idea the prayers would have mattered to them. But watching my kids grow up and watching how God has worked in me and in others around me as we hear people praying changed me. I determined to pray out loud much more often than I used to. Whether I’m praying with my baby, praying with someone at book club after hearing a need, or praying with someone in the grocery store, God hears. And God works.
The really cool thing: IT ALSO BLESSES ME.
As I watch God work through my little prayers about tiny things and huge things, my faith grows. The faith of those around me grows, but mine might grow even more. Amazing. What a good God we have. He allows us to be vessels through which he works.
Do you have a child, a co-worker, or a family member who might benefit from an audible prayer from you?