When one of my daughters was potty training, she had a fear of public restrooms. The loud noises from the toilets flushing and super sonic hand driers were unsettling to her. She also found the size of the toilets intimidating. She must have been afraid of getting flushed because every single time she would say, “Mommy, hold on to me.” She’d say it multiple times, mentally preparing for the experience while we were walking to the restroom and saying it a few more times for safe measure once we reached the bathroom, just in case. At home she had a little potty seat that fit on top of the regular seat, making it the perfect size to ensure her toddler sized self would stay safely perched above the basin. Without that security, faced with the daunting experience of using a public restroom she was always prompted to repeat her mantra, “Mommy, hold on to me.”
Most of the time this made me smile. It’s cute, right? “Mommy, hold on to me,” she’d say in her sweet little voice as she marched herself to the bathroom. Sometimes, though, I admit I found it a little irritating. I didn’t need her to remind me every time, she’d said it enough I knew the routine, and if you’ve ever had a toddler you know how tiresome their inclination toward repetition can be. But there was no use trying to tell her she didn’t need to remind me. She continued to every time.
I began to realize my daughter was teaching me something about prayer. We tire of asking God the same thing over and over. As a parent, I get tired of hearing the same thing over and over. Not so with God. God is infinitely young and does not grow weary like we do. As G. K. Chesterton says, “It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” As a child does not tire in monotony or repetition, neither does God.
Why does God want us to bring our requests to him? With my daughter, she didn’t really need to ask. I already knew what she needed. I already anticipated her fear and knew how I could ease it and was willing to do so. I also knew she wouldn’t actually fall in the toilet, and I certainly wouldn’t have let harm come to her, yet I still held on to her just the same. Why? Simply put, because I love her. I knew her fear was irrational and unwarranted, but when she looked at me with that sweet little face and reminded me to hold on to her, my heart filled with tenderness and I assured her I would most certainly hold on. It would have been of no use to assure her she need not worry about falling in. I’m smarter than her and have a better understanding of how things work, but she didn’t need my rationale. She just needed the security of feeling my hands around her, holding her up to ensure she didn’t fall. God is infinitely more loving and gracious than I am, and also immeasurably more wise and powerful. If my heart as a parent is inclined toward tenderness for my daughter, how much more so must God’s be towards us? What a secure feeling to imagine him holding me up with his sure and loving grip.
So back to the question, why does God want me to ask Him if he already knows? Why does he want me to keep asking for the same thing over and over? Isn’t he smart enough to know what I need without asking?
In the asking, it reveals my need for him. As my daughter needs my help, so do I need the help of my Father. The places of need in my life teach me to rely on him. It also reveals where I should place my trust. My daughter trusts me completely. I never once let her get flushed (in case you were worried). She continues to look to me in simple, sweet faith. Trusting God to provide the things I need or talking to him about my fears reminds me that because God is who He is, I have nothing to fear. That’s an important purpose that prayer serves, reminding…and boy do we need reminded (enter 2020).
Sometimes as adults it can feel like our own lives or the world around us (or both) are precariously close to getting flushed down the metaphorical toilet. Job loss, relationship issues, financial instability, health concerns, political unrest…while we may outgrow the fears of childhood, all that really happens is they are replaced with the fears brought on by adulthood. In our minds they’re justifiable fears, based on real grown-up stuff. I imagine God looks at us the same way I looked at my daughter, a loving smile, knowing everything is going to be just fine and there’s nothing to fear, reaching down with his assuring arms.
Let’s take a lesson from my 3-year-old daughter’s sweet, simple faith in my ability to keep her safe from falling and say to our heavenly Father in the face of our own fears, “Daddy, hold on to me.” And we can ask again and again, as many times as we need to. Sometimes in the face of all the complexities of life that’s all we need, the simple reminder that he’s got us.