Sometimes I am embarrassed about the things I say in my prayers. Sometimes I’m embarrassed while I am still praying. Here I am, getting down on my knees to commune with the Creator of the Universe and the Author of the Plan of Redemption and what do I have on the agenda? Well, dear reader, I’m not going to tell you exactly. See above, re: embarrassment. But you can fill in your own examples: concerns about bills or work, fears about work, little worries about the future. Day-to-day problems that even I won’t remember a week from now.
There are times when shame washes over me, and I apologize for taking my Heavenly Father’s time up with such trivialities. Not that I think He’s really short on time, in a literal sense. If He can field billions of prayers a day, I’m sure He’s got a handle on the logistics. But sometimes when I realize how tiny my concerns are, it makes me feel small.
But I think my shame is misplaced.
Hear me out on this. I’m not saying we shouldn’t strive to lift our gaze a little higher, and to keep our eyes on spiritual and eternal things. We should! But I also want to cut myself some slack, and here’s why.
As a parent, there are many things I earnestly want to provide for my children: food and shelter, obviously. Safety. Education. Among the other items on this list, one of the things I really, really want to give to them is my attention.
I’m not perfect at that. Life can be busy, and the concerns and preoccupations of kids—especially when they’re little—can be overwhelming. There are so many questions! And so many ideas and theories that can be a little… hard to follow.
It’s not quite that I want to find everything important that they do. My job, as a parent, is to teach them and guide them, so I’ve got to have my own priorities. And of course, in the real world, I can’t always stop what I’m doing to talk as much as they’d like about whatever they’d like. But I do want to be engaged in their interests. I love my children. I love them with a fierceness that I didn’t know I could feel about anything until they come into my life. And that means that anything that concerns them concerns me. That’s part of what comes with loving someone.
Now, I’m not a perfect parent. And that means I don’t always live up to this. Sometimes I’m tired, sometimes I’m stressed, sometimes I’m selfish. I fall short. And in those moments, their concerns can seem small and trivial and alien to me. I’m imperfect, and so I don’t always live up to the love I feel.
But our Heavenly Parents? Well, they’re much better at their job. They love me with a fierceness even stronger and brighter than the love I have for my children. And, because of that love, I believe that what concerns me concerns them. And, unlike me, they don’t stumble on selfishness or stress or tiredness.
So imagine yourself having a conversation with a child. With your child. At age 8. Imagine they are prattling on about something technically irrelevant. An unoriginal game they are inventing. An unrealistic contraption they are inventing. A little fear they have that you know will amount to nothing. Imagine how you feel about their story when you are at your best. When you have time, when you are really seeing your child, when you’re fully engaged.
The game might still be unoriginal, the contraption might still be unrealistic, the fear might be illusory, but none of that changes the fact that you care because this is your child. This is how our prayers are heard.
Now that I’m typing this out, it even seems a little bit obvious. None of us hang our kids’ artwork up on the fridge because we honestly think they’re the next Matisse or van Gogh. What could be more basic and natural than investing your attention in whatever matters to your child because they’re your child.
Your children learn and grow. Yesterday’s clumsy crayon sketch may very well become tomorrow’s accomplished oil painting. Silly contraptions might become the basis for a real career. And, sadly, the fears grow too. One day it’s monsters under the bed, and then all too sudden it can be real physical and spiritual perils.
We learn and grow, too. Heavenly Parents do want us to pay attention to things that really matter. To develop a genuinely eternal perspective. To come, one distant day, to see things as They do.
But in the meantime, they do not frown when we still act like children, because we’re Their children. And besides, we’re supposed to pray about the small stuff, too. That’s why Amulek said to pray “when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks.” (Alma 34:20) Does the number of sheep you have matter in an eternal sense? No, but you’ve still got to put food on the table.
If it matters to you, then don’t ever be ashamed or embarrassed to take it to your Heavenly Parents in prayer. You are a child of God. This is your birthright. Don’t let anything take that away from you.