I was taking the grandkids to school while babysitting for my son and his wife, who were on holiday for a week. On Monday I realized how out of practice I am in caring for four children, despite raising four children many years ago. I almost had to drive the kids to school in my nightgown.
The grandchildren were all fed, and as I was relaxing at the breakfast table, the 11-year-old came in and said, “Uh…” I looked up and saw that his backpack was on, as were his shoes, which is always a signal in rainy Seattle that one is walking out the door. Only then did I look at the clock. We were running late.
As I raced to school, I said, “Jesus, help!” about three dozen times. I got the children to school with one minute to spare. Phew! They flew out of the car and rushed across the empty playground.
I think driving kids to and from sports practice, school, or other errands is a great opportunity to talk about something important. They are a captive audience. Only parents, caregivers, and people privileged to spend extended time with grandchildren know the overwhelming love—and sometimes exhaustion—of spending time with young ones.
When I picked up the children, on time, I asked, “Do you know what Grandma’s favorite prayer is?”
They suggested things like the Our Father.
“Nope,” I replied. “It’s ‘Jesus, help!’”
As the week unfolded, I realized my mistake. My favorite prayer isn’t really, “Help!” It’s “Thank you.”
On Saturday mornings, each child gets to spend an hour on tablets choosing games or shows. The six-year-old hopped onto my bed where I was praying. I welcomed the interruption and moved my devotional to make room to cuddle her for a moment. She began a game, and I picked up my prayer book.
By the fifth time she interrupted me to show me some level of a game on her machine, I said, “Sorry, dear; I’m talking to someone else.”
And then, as a reminder to her, and as a genuine, heartfelt prayer, I began to repeat aloud, “Thank you, Jesus. Jesus, thank you.”
It was a simple signal to her that I was occupied, but it was also a mantra that I repeated more softly for some time. These are the teachable moments, when my life can influence for the good.
Before reuniting the kids with their parents, we visited a yogurt shop and filled our bowls. As we drove away, one of the kids said, “Thank you.”
I responded effusively with how much I loved to be thanked. God does too! Well, the six-year-old remembered the morning prayer and began to repeat from the back of the van, in the sweetest little voice, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
She kept it up for the entire 20-minute drive, thoroughly irritating her brother. “Can’t you make her stop?” he begged.
Well, how could I? I did turn up the radio a bit as her brother gritted his teeth. I smiled and silently prayed along, “God, thank you; thank you; thank you!”
As I drove on, snow-covered Cascade Mountains suddenly popped into view. “Wow!” I exclaimed.
I couldn’t help praising God for such natural beauty. It was another one-word prayer.
During my week with the grandchildren I realized prayer is not complicated. One-word prayers like “Help,” “Thanks,” and “Wow!” cover a multitude of conversations with God.