by Adam Hengeveld
As I sat in church, surrounded by the wonderful sounds of the Service of Matins, I looked for a way to dispose of my chewing gum. I remembered the little slips of bright green prayer-request paper in each pew, and I grabbed one.
I know this is an improper use of the little slips, and I immediately had the feeling God was reminding me of their proper use when I noticed some writing on the slip I had grabbed. Instead of making its way into the offering basket and to the altar, this neglected slip found itself back where it began, in the pew. Yet the prayer request it held, though simple, speaks volumes for our world today.
In a wonderful script typical of youngsters just learning to write, on the line for “Name of Individual or Happening to Be Prayed For” was scrawled “people in the dump,” with the last word running up the side of the paper.
It gets better. There was another section on the slip, “Specific Prayer Request(s) for the Above-Listed Name.” The young person dutifully continued the supplication with this: “Please help the people in the dump find jobs and food.”
The profound nature of this simple statement was not lost on me. Yes, I used another prayer-request slip for my flavor-depleted chewing gum. However, my thoughts remained with the words scrawled on the first slip: “Please help the people in the dump find jobs and food.”
I am certain the child must have heard a parent or other significant adult say something about being “down in the dumps,” a phrase we use when things aren’t going well for us.
What warmed my heart most was the apparent understanding and confidence of this child. That the child wrote this small prayer request speaks volumes, really. For me, it evidences a confidence in the power of prayer, the childlike faith St. Matthew writes about: “He called a little child and had him stand among them. And He said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’” (18:2–4 NIV).
It is important to remember that there is a difference between being childish and humbling oneself like a child, which Jesus calls us to do. A childlike faith is unceasing in times of trouble, unconditional in love, and abounding in praise. A childlike faith is a face lit up while singing “Jesus Loves Me” as loud as possible in the front of the church, while also sneaking a wave and a smile to mom and dad. A childlike faith is unshakable.
Those of us no longer considered childlike by outward appearances can learn a thing or two about a childlike faith from that prayer request for the “people in the dump.” Although we are to continually strive for whatever earthly understanding we may attain about the complexities of our faith and knowledge of God, we can still remain unceasing and unmoving in the simplicity of a childlike faith as children of God.
Let us then pray for the “people in the dump,” because there are many now, whether they are members of our family, fellow church members, our neighbors, or people in this nation or around the world. Our economic difficulties fell on the prayerful mind of a child, and as we pray for those in our world in need, we remember the unwavering confidence of a child in the strength, power, and mercy of our God, and the comfort, peace, and joy He offers in all circumstances.