Heart Matters: “Alicia’s Prayer”

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As I passed the adult Bible fellowship on the way to my
classroom of precocious 4- and 5-year-olds, I could see all my
friends laughing and eating doughnuts. With an envious twinge, I
silently wondered why I’d ever volunteered to teach these little
ones.

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Their teacher had led the class for several years without a break,
until one morning I noticed her looking especially tired. I wanted
to help, so I offered to teach with her. At first I was so
enthusiastic about the challenge of teaching kids, I spent a great
deal of time thinking of new, creative ways to teach the lessons
and engage the kids. Before long, though, it became difficult to
remember that enthusiasm — and it was even more difficult to
muster new, heartfelt enthusiasm. I’d only been teaching the class
part-time for three months, and here I was wishing I’d never made
the commitment.

I tried to cover up my weariness with a smile before I stepped
inside the classroom of rambunctious kids. Right away, little
Alicia greeted me with a hug. Alicia always had a smile. She was a
sweet girl, and her hug gave me stamina to face the hour.

We started every class by sitting in a circle for prayer time, and
Alicia sat next to me. Each week we gave everyone a chance to pray.
Without fail, the kids prayed for themselves or for a boo-boo they
wanted God to fix. This Sunday, though, I challenged them.

“This morning let’s do something different. Instead of praying for
ourselves, let’s pray for someone else,” I said. “I know a lot of
us have boo-boos, but today let’s think about somebody else.”

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The kids all thought this was a good idea. Before we prayed, we
took turns telling everyone about the person we were going to pray
for. I went last. I decided to be very honest with the children and
tell them about someone who needed our prayers.

“I’d like to pray for my sister,” I said. “She’s getting a
divorce. Divorce is when mommies and daddies don’t live together
anymore, and that’s not the way God wants it to be.”

Together, we bowed our heads and closed our eyes.

It was then that Alicia leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Miss
Jennifer, can I pray for your sister?”

Startled, I nodded. As the children prayed, I wondered what Alicia
would say. How much had she gotten out of my rough explanation of
divorce? Maybe my request was too much for these small
children.

Finally it was Alicia’s turn. I felt a tiny, warm hand on my back.
Alicia rubbed my back, comforting me as she prayed this simple
prayer: “God, please help Miss Jennifer’s sister. Just let her know
that you love her. Amen.”

There was a silent pause before I ended our prayer. We raised our
heads, and I looked at Alicia and mouthed the words, “Thank you.”
The prayer she prayed was exactly what my sister — and I —
needed.

It was difficult to concentrate the rest of the hour. That morning
I’d come to church with a terrible case of the “I’s” — “Why did I
ever volunteer to do this?” “I want to be in adult Bible fellowship
with my friends, eating doughnuts and laughing,” “I don’t want to
teach today.”

Since that day, I’ve never read Jesus’ words about “becoming like
children” in the same way. Alicia’s simple prayer — and her kind,
comforting touch — got my heart’s attention. God used Alicia that
morning; there’s no doubt about it. He used her compassion and
gentleness to remind me that teaching children is an honor, because
every day they show us God’s heart in ways we can never even
imagine.

Jennifer Brackemyre ministers to young people in Wilmington,
Ohio, and presents workshops with Aim Training Ministries
(www.aimtrainingministries.com).

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