Teaching Children to Pray Expectantly

Kim Sullivan

January 4, 2023

I wanted my child to learn how to pray expectantly. I wanted him to grow up and pray God-sized prayers and trust God’s provision, but my son was only four. And like most four year olds, his dreams included Mickey Mouse and a Kingdom called "Magic." He mentioned Disney World to God each time he prayed. The only problem was that I was a single mom whose income didn't even pay the bills, let alone an expensive vacation. Should I allow him to pray for a Disney World miracle, or was it time to introduce him to the facts of a hard-knock-life?

Believe in the miraculous

Time passed, and still something or someone held my tongue when I felt the need to explain God to this child. He didn't beg or cry or pray a lengthy prayer, instead he closed every bedtime and meal prayer with a simple, "And God, thank you for our trip to Disney World, Amen." We asked, and God was going to do it. Period.

We kept asking until, one day, a couple from church walked up to us and said, "We've heard that your son has been asking God for a trip to Disney World. We'd like to help make that happen."

My first response was shame. The truth is, I didn't feel worthy of this kind of a gift. I mean, I hadn't even figured out how to take care of us yet, and here God was doing something so extravagant! Maybe I should ask the family just to give us cash instead so I could get caught up on my bills.

But then I remembered all of those prayers. God heard them and moved on some hearts to make this dream happen. My son got exactly what he had been praying for. What had I been praying for? Strength to make it another day? God had given that. Wisdom to raise a good boy? God was working on that one.

God is generous

God desires to give good gifts to His children. We need to learn to receive those gifts.

"Even though you’re evil, you know how to give good gifts to your children. So how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him?" (Matthew 7:11)

If I had every resource in the world, would I deny my child a gift like this? How much more did God want my son to know that He heard his prayers, and was able AND willing to answer.

I didn't want to teach my son low self esteem, that he wasn't worth such an extravagant and beautiful gift. According to Paul, God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20). God was doing exceeding abundantly more than what we had asked, and it was His pleasure to do it.

God is faithful

I thought about how God was showing Himself to be my son's father. His father wasn't there for him, but God was. His father hadn't been faithful to my son and I, but God was! How would I feel as a parent if I had gone to such troubles to arrange the perfect gift and then my child rejected it because of how poorly they felt about themselves?

As parents, we need to be careful not to crush our children's dreams with our doubt and unbelief. In fact, we might be surprised at what they can teach us about the goodness and kindness of God.

In short, we must be careful not to keep the blessings of God from our children because of our past hurts and disappointments. This is what makes their faith so productive. They don't have years of disappointment and failures to cloud their beliefs. I am thankful that, like Zachariah, God shut my mouth when it came to talking this young man out of what He believed God would do for him. I also thank God for this example of child-like faith, for it has reminded me often of how far our Father will go in order to give us our desires when we trust in Him. I wanted my child to learn to pray God-sized prayers and trust God’s provision. God used my son to teach that lesson to me.

About the author — Kim Sullivan

Kim Sullivan is a writer with a background in everything from homeschooling to nonprofit management. She has raised three children each of whom are successful in their own unique way. Recently, Kim has done the most radical and risky thing she has ever done…she moved 700 miles from her suburban Chicago home and everything familiar to her and relocated to Tulsa, Oklahoma. She is working on a brand-new website and blogs at Journey to Epiphany. She is also writing a book about her adventures in following Jesus.

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