Why I Don’t Pray for the World Anymore

Why I Don’t Pray for the World Anymore May 29, 2013

I used to pray for the world. I remember, especially with William, sitting late at night as he nursed, and scrolling through a mental map of conflicts around the globe. I spent the most time praying for a host of people I knew, mostly scattered up and down the east coast of the United States, with a few sprinkled overseas. Back then, my prayers spanned continents. Now they mostly circle within the walls of our home.

My world of concern has become smaller and smaller in the years since I first became a parent. Part of me worries that I have become insulated from the hardship out there, indifferent to suffering, idolatrous towards my own children. And yet my prayers have also grown deeper and deeper. Instead of a cursory prayer for children with special needs in Africa (which I still offer on occasion, though it is even more sporadic than it once was), I pray for my particular child with special needs. And I pray and I pray and I pray, day after day after day. Instead of praying for an end to conflict in the Middle East, I pray for laughter within our own home. I pray for William to grow in grace and for Marilee to know the Lord’s love for her from the days of her youth and for Penny to flourish. And I hope and trust that these small, consistent, over-the-years prayers might make a difference in who they become and in how they love others one day.

I remember a time when friends of ours, relatively new parents, arrived a few hours late for dinner and an overnight stay at our house. They were driving from far away, and they hadn’t calculated the time it would take to stop and nurse their baby every 2-3 hours. Their world of concern had gotten smaller. Their little girl’s need to eat was the highest concern. It certainly superseded our dinner plans as a group. Maybe parenting makes us more self-centered. Or maybe it just pushes us to acknowledge our limited nature, that we can only get so many things done in a day, only pray for so many other people. Maybe it pushes us to trust God more.

I want to remember that the needs are out there–that people starve and die and suffer every day–and to teach my children about those needs and our ability to respond to them. But I need to act upon my concern for the world in conjunction with my children, not apart from them, whether that means praying together or sponsoring a child or serving in a soup kitchen or even going to an art museum to start to teach them about beauty.

But I also want to remember not to disparage the insularity, the everyday-ness, the series of small tasks that go into raising a family. Much of my time now goes to packing lunches and clipping toenails and kissing boo boos and laughing at their idiosyncrasies (Marilee, for instance, has taken to calling graham crackers “grandfather crackers”), and every so often having a glimpse of something that might some day mean something to them–William asking me about Peter’s grandfather’s death last night . . . Penny hearing a song about God washing away pain and sorrow and saying, “like for Dad,” who just sprained his ankle.

My world is smaller, and deeper, and when I go back into the wider space, I want to bring my children with me.

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