For the past couple of months, I have been co-leading a small group for 6th and 7th grade young women from our church. As a former middle school teacher who has spent the past several years in college ministry, I've really enjoyed working with this age group again. I truly have a heart for girls encountering this pivotal and transitional time in their lives.
Our group has been studying A Young Woman After God's Own Heart, and this past week our focus was on developing a commitment to (and understanding of) prayer. I admit I did not have the best attitude heading into the evening. It had been an unusually chaotic Sunday--hardly a Sabbath--and though I had read the chapter once, I had not reviewed my notes or written down any questions in advance.
As so often happens, God took me in my weakness and brought something beautiful out of it. We began summarizing the chapter as we usually do, but I sensed the need to dig deeper. A small group, by our definition, should be a place for honest questions and admissions. So I told the girls that I thought it would be really cool if any of them would be willing to share something about their own experience with prayer--whether positive or not.
What happened next made my heart leap. One of the young women mentioned that she felt like her prayers were boring and she just didn't know what to say. She said her prayers usually consist of "Help me have a good day tomorrow" as she falls into bed each night. When I asked her what she wanted her prayers to be like, she said she felt they should be more meaningful. (That was her word--love that--from a 13 year-old!) So then I asked, What makes a prayer meaningful? The response, from a different young lady: "I think it means saying what's on your heart." Bingo! I got so excited--that is exactly what prayer is. What a beautiful definition--and a reminder to us all, especially when we try to make things more complicated than they actually are.