Last night, my wife and I were going through the routine of getting our kids ready for bed. She took care of the little one, our daughter, and I was taking care of our son. The usual routine with him is that one of us will read a couple of books to him before bed. We read our books, and then–because it was a little earlier in the evening than he has been going to bed lately and I knew he wouldn't like going to lay down yet–I told him that I still needed to read my evening prayers and that I would sit in his room with him while I did so and he could look at some books in his bed. He was excited to have been told anything other than that it was time for him to go to sleep.
So I sat on the floor of his room read the prayers from my prayer book while he was in his bed looking at books with a flashlight. After reading the prayers with other people's words, I still needed some time for the day to practice praying without words, so I layed on his floor and tried to do so. Whenever I can, I give this practice twenty minutes, so it was a decent amount of time that I was laying on his floor being very quiet while he was in his bed still looking at books with his flashlight. When the twenty minutes were up, I started to get off of his floor and say goodnight to him, but he objected: "But Dad, we were having so much fun!"
We really hadn't interacted at all for the previous twenty minutes, so I was a bit puzzled at what the "so much fun" was that he was referring to, and I know him well enough to recognize in those words a four-year-old's attempt to avoid going to sleep. But I think there was another level to it also.
Looking at books with a flashlight in his bed is something he does nearly every night. It's part of a regular day for him. But it's interesting that he was able to notice the difference it made to do that regular thing while also on another level being very aware that his daddy who loved him very much was in the room with him.
Though as his parents we are careful to help him learn some boundaries and understand that it's okay for him to be alone in his room right across the hall from us, and even though part of him was surely trying to avoid going to sleep, I'm sure that there was another part of him that was legitimately having more fun reading a book by flashlight on his bed while I was on the floor than he would have doing the same thing without his daddy there next to him.
John Ortberg writes, "Spiritual growth, in a sense, is simply increasing our capacity to experience the presence of God." Or, in the terms my son would be more likely to put it, we have more fun when he's in the room with us.
A good part of what I'm trying to accomplish in living out the things I wrote in Live Prayerfully is to increase my capacity to do the things I regularly do in a day while being very aware at another level that my loving father is with me as I do them. My son is right; doing things that way certainly beats doing them alone.
Perhaps there are a number of people out there (maybe even some of you who will read this) who can live with that kind of awareness of God's presence during the things they regularly do without having to take some relatively drastic measures to practice being aware of God's presence, like I'm doing in this year's experiment. Not me. My attention flies all over the place, and I can so easily forget God, that I'm desperately in need of these four-times-per-day reminders of how, regardless of what I'm doing in the rest of the day, a very loving father is right there with me.
Something I've prayed this week:
Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen (Prayer for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany from The Book of Common Prayer)
[This is 16th post from A Year of Living Prayerfully.]