Scripture: Matthew 19.13-14
Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Reflection: Prayer as Relationship
By John Tillman
Many have faithfully lived out Christ’s command to let the little children come to him. But perhaps no one in history has lived it out affecting as many children as Fred Rogers.
In her book, The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers, Amy Hollingsworth gives an up-close look at the foundational Christian faith that made Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood a sacrament carried on secular airwaves.
The show had an intangible quality that captivated children and defied expectations. In the recently released documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, one of the show’s producers, Margy Whitmire, said, “If you take all of the elements that make good television, and do the exact opposite, you have Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
One possible reason for the show’s intangible and unlikely success is the simple spiritual discipline of its founder. According to Amy Hollingsworth:
Everything Fred Rogers did was a prelude to—or an outcome of—prayer….the essence of prayer is relationship, and Fred understood that.
One of the greatest things Mister Rogers may have modeled for children about God, is that he listens to and accepts their concerns, their emotions, and them as their true selves. Hollingsworth relates his answer to a child about not getting what she prayed for.
“Now, you know prayer is asking for something, and sometimes you get a yes answer and sometimes you get a no answer,” he carefully explained. “And just like anything else you might get angry when you get a no answer. But God respects your feelings, and God can take your anger as well as your happiness. So whatever you have to offer God through prayer—it seems to me—is a great gift. Because the thing God wants most of all is a relationship with you, yeah, even as a child—especially as a child. Look how Jesus loved the children who came around Him,” he told her.
Prayer was the purpose of the children coming to Jesus. Jesus didn’t merely greet the children. When the Bible says he “placed his hands on them” it isn’t referring to casual pat on the back, but a purposeful, prayerful blessing. That kind of welcoming and blessing is something we can receive from God, and give to others.
As we pray, about personal problems or about weighty national issues, we would do well to keep in mind the simple teaching of Mister Rogers, that also is the teaching of Jesus—prayer is about relationship.
Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
“Because the needy are oppressed, and the poor cry out in misery, I will rise up,” says the Lord, “And give them the help they long for.” — Psalm 12.5
– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.
Read More about Prayer Beyond Petitions
It is more important that we know God through prayer than petition him. God answers Hezekiah’s unasked prayer through relationship.
In August we will look back at our readers’ favorite posts of the year. Submit a Readers Choice post
Tell us about a post and what it meant to you. What post refreshed your relationship with God?