Praying for Dragons
(During bedtime chat)
3 yo: Are dragons real?
Me: No, honey, they're not real.
3 yo: (Yelling toward ceiling) God, can you make dragons? (pause). He said no. They're too big.
Me: Well, there are some lizards that are like dragons.
3 yo: (Yelling toward ceiling again). God, you make small dragons?
(Some time passes)
3 yo: God hears when we talk?
Me: Yes, God hears everything.
3 yo: (Prays the Lord's Prayer). God hear that?
Me: Yes, honey, He heard it.
3 yo: He like it?
Me: Yes, God does. God loves to hear you when you pray.
3 yo: Why he want us to pray? He hear us when we talk.
Me: Well, God does hear us when we talk, but prayer is a special way we talk to God. We only pray to God, no one else. So prayer is like this super-special thing we do with God.
3 yo: That's cool!
My children run a little hot and cold with prayer. Some nights (and mealtimes) there's a tedious rendition in which God is praised for at least 24 stuffed animals and as many classmates as can be recalled. Other times the prayer is a sprint to get to the next thing.
My own prayers have the same variation, if I'm honest. My focus, attention and commitment to the practice varies, but I've learned that prayer often happens around the margins of other things, and that's okay. Anything can be a prayer when you remember God is present, lovingly attentive.
Prayer is simply talking to God, any time and any place, and no topic is off limits. I'm surprised and delighted when my kids ask God for random things like dragons. It's probably not the first time someone has asked!
My favorite part of this theology chat is not that my 3 yo asked God for something, it's that my child listened, or at least told me so. Apparently God said no to the dragon inquiry, and it's probably for the best. The 3 yo doesn't realize it, but the holy task of listening in prayer, and accepting a "no" is one of the hardest tasks of faith.
Last thought: when the dragon petition didn't work out, my child turned back to the Lord's Prayer. We could do worse.
Note: This conversation occurred March 8, 2020.