This weekend some good friends came to visit and I planned to give them my bed and sleep on the couch. One of the friends is quite allergic to Louie the Wonder Cat and as I changed the sheets I found myself praying, “God, please don’t let the cat hair bother him.”
It was an almost automatic prayer, conditioned by years of being told that God acts on such details. “No prayer is too small,” Sunday school teachers exhorted. “He counts the hairs on your head and cares about everything.”
I would like to think that’s true, and many days I do. Paul did, after all, remind the Philippians to “in everything…present your requests to God.” Other days I question it—not his care for my life, exactly, but his preoccupation with its minutia.
As an outgrowth of the popular Jesus-as-best-friend/boyfriend theology (“I am so in love with you” goes one popular chorus), we assume He is waiting with bated breath to hear the details of our days, the small annoyances and happy moments. We pray for parking spaces to appear, for headaches to fade, for missing keys and homework to be found.
And yet. I return again to the familiar “Lord’s Prayer,” in which Jesus prays for bigger-ticket items: the glory of God’s name, the manifestation of His kingdom and His will, the provision for basic needs, the rescue from sin and temptation.
Perhaps the allergy attack, the trek across the parking lot, or the nagging headache would provide more exercise for our patience and perseverance muscles, and thereby serve more kingdom-building purpose, than the answer we seek. Maybe our focus needs to shift from the momentary to the eternal. And just possibly God is more concerned with our character than our convenience.
I suspect that, like so many things of God, the answer cannot be fully known in this life. I believe the prayer of a small child for what seems (to his parent) a meaningless trifle may carry great weight with God, who knows the child’s faith. I believe the same prayer uttered by the parent, who is called to put aside childish ways and think as an adult (1 Cor. 13), may be viewed quite differently.
So I’ll acknowledge that small is relative. But recently I’ve been embarrassed to pray those prayers, myself, when bigger, thy-kingdom-come prayers aren’t crossing my lips. I’m an adopted daughter of the king and called to active participation in the kingdom bringing, the sin forgiving, the temptation avoiding. That’s plenty to keep me busy. So while God may know the number of hairs on my head, I won’t be praying about my next haircut.