If you have children, I am guessing your children's bedtime routine is similar. Get in jammies. Brush teeth. Fill water bottles with an appropriate number of ice cubes, four if you are four years old, two if you are two years old. (Wait? That's not in your routine?!) Say prayers. Read bedtime story and Bible story. Go to sleep. Breathe a sigh of relief that you have indeed made it through another day.
With our four year old daughter, our prayers consist of saying the Lord's Prayer and then also praying aloud an impromptu prayer covering all the topics-- thanksgiving, forgiveness, and requests.
Since our daughter has gotten a little older, we've been including her in the thanksgiving part of the prayer. We like to specifically ask what she is thankful for from that day.
Sometimes (and this sounds terrible), this would annoy me.
But let me explain. Toddlers don't always understand everything. Okay, that's surely not news to anyone. A concept, such as being thankful for something, can be difficult to really understand completely. Of course we have been teaching her to say thank-you since she could hardly speak, but did she really understand it much more than a response you give when someone provides you with something?
So when we first started this, what was she often thankful for?
"Thank you for lamp."
"Thank you for pictures."
"Thank you for blankie."
Hmpf. This was annoying to me. Here I am, trying to explain, "No. What is something we did today that you are thankful for? What is something special you are thankful for?" Surely she still had yet to completely understanding what thanksgiving is all about! What four year old cares about a lamp or pictures hanging on the wall?
Over the past year, even with my insistence to try to change this nightly prayer, it remains. My daughter continues to be thankful for her lamp, her pictures, her blankie. But a funny thing is happening. She is starting to add more things to this. "I am thankful for all my clothes and shoes. I am thankful for all my toys. I am thankful for my bed. I am thankful for all of my books and chapter books."
But those core items remained.
However I started to realize something. She really seems to understand thanksgiving these days. She clearly does by many of the things that she says she is thankful for. So, it would seem, she is thankful for her lamp and her pictures and who knows what else lying around.
But why shouldn't she be? Why was I getting so angry that she be thankful for the seemingly mundane things in her life? Isn't this what I, as her Mom, should be teaching her? I myself was praying for somewhat "mundane" things-- thanks for our cars, thanks for our house, thanks for all the things you have blessed us with. But she can't have those same ideas?
Some people don't have lamps. Some people don't have electricity! Some people don't have pictures. Some people don't have walls! Some people don't have a blankie. Some people don't have a home!
These are very real things to be thankful for! Just because I have been fortunate enough in my life to not experience this kind of disparity certainly doesn't mean I can't and shouldn't be thankful for them. Just because God has blessed me with not needing to worry about what I will eat or what I will wear certainly doesn't mean He doesn't want me to thank Him for them!
This realization, that took far longer than it should have to come to, is a huge slap in the face. Nothing like being taught by your four year old about being thankful.
Psalm 100: 1-5, "Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations."
As you can probably guess, I don't get mad about our prayer anymore. I use our prayers to be thankful! A reminder to be so thankful for everything God has blessed me with, whether seemingly insignificant (to me) or as amazing as salvation from our Savior Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."