In the world of my two-year-old nephew Mark, there are few things in life that rival the joy of a box of Hot Wheel cars or a set of trains sitting atop a wooden track. He can keep himself busy for hours on some imaginary adventure with his favorite die-cast machines—the entire outside world tuned out as he helps Thomas and Percy deliver the mail around Sodor, or while he races his favorite Umizoomi car up and down a track only he can see (a journey fraught with gratuitous explosions and requisite slo-mo mid-air backflips). To the average adult, they’re a pile of toys—but to Marky, they’re an integral part of his world.
One night, not too many months ago, my wife Mary and I had the opportunity to be with Marky as he said his nighttime prayers. We knelt on the ground beside him while he bowed his head and began to thank his Father in heaven for everything God had given him.
…And I mean everything.
Mary and I knelt there for a good ten minutes while little Marky named off every blessing in his life that came to his mind. He’s still not quite mastered the art of communication (but who has?), which means much of his prayer was unintelligible to us, but we still got the gist of it from the snippets we caught, like, “Umizoomi car…and Tomash and Pershy…and rocket car and the VROOM-VROOM.” There was no end to the blessings my nephew was thankful for, and he was intent on expressing his gratitude for each one, individually.
The apostle Paul admonishes us to be “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). That night, in a little child’s prayer to God, I saw that scripture followed beautifully. There was nothing forced about Marky’s words—and while not all of them were clear to Mary and I, not a single one of them was misunderstood by our Creator. I can only imagine God’s joy each night as He listens to the heartfelt thanksgiving of a little one still learning to speak. The world around us is crumbling as societies and nations degenerate farther and farther into a state of godlessness and strife, and yet the Master of the universe still takes special note of the prayers of one little boy who wants to say thanks for his toys.
Having seen Marky pray, I can’t help but wonder about my own prayers. Am I really as thankful as I ought to be? It’s too easy to spend most of my prayer asking—asking for my daily bread, asking for the hastening of His Kingdom, asking for the welfare of the Church, asking for my needs and wants. Marky spent most of his prayer genuinely thanking.
I guess that’s what happens when you get older. You stop noticing the things you have, and start paying attention to the things you lack. Start worrying more about the ends you can’t seem to make meet instead of looking at the consistent examples of God’s hand in your life. Start glancing warily at the long road ahead instead of remembering who guided you through the long road behind you. It’s that Israelite state of mind that says, “God may have delivered us from slavery, brought us dry-shod across the sea, and sent down bread daily from heaven, but I’m thirsty and none of that counts for anything now.”
It’s not that I have nothing to be thankful for, either. I have a job. I have a roof over my head. I have food to eat. I have the most fantastic wife in the world and the calling of Almighty God to join His eternal family. If Marky can take ten minutes to express sincere gratitude for his favorite toys, how many more hours should I be able to spend thanking God for the multitude of blessings He’s poured upon me?
So it’s time for a change of pace. Yes, there are things in my life that I need or want or hope for that I still intend to include in my prayers—but hearing my nephew’s prayer reminded me that maybe I need to be working a little harder to include some more thank yous along with all my pleases.
It’s like Paul said: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
So whatever your Umizoomi cars or Thomases and Percys might be…remember to say thanks for them every now and then.
Until next time,