3 Things I Learned About Prayer from my Son’s Tonsillectomy

The tonsillectomy used to be a rite of passage in most American households. It wasn’t a question of “if” you would have your tonsils removed; only a question of “when.” When I had mine done around the age of 6 or 7, I was one of the first in my class. As such, I was thrilled that the doctor was willing to grant my request of saving my tonsils for me in a jar.

Two weeks later I had the best show and tell of my life in that first grade classroom.

But things have changed. They don’t let you take your removed tonsils home floating in a jar any more. Neither are tonsillectomies as common as they once were. But we have a snorer and a perpetual victim of strep throat in our house, and so a couple of weeks ago my own brave 6-year-old went under the knife.

He spent about a week out of school, laying on the couch, regularly dosed with medicine and trying to get by on ice cream and then Raman noodles. But also during that recovery, I had some time to think about the nature of this child being in need, and we as his parents who were trying our best to provide for him. That experience has led me to a few reflections on the nature of prayer, for we daily come to our own Parent in need trusting that He will provide for us. And praise God, He is a better Father than I am:

1. Praise God, He doesn’t tire of hearing the same thing.

It was admittedly a little tough hearing the same complaint over and over again from my son – that his throat hurt. Nothing seemed to help – no ice cream, no popsicles, and to make matters worse, the medicine he had to take tasted truly terrible. So the complaints kept coming, even through the course of the night. I wish I could say as a dad that I handled this with perfect patience but I did not. There came a point when I wanted to tell my 6-year-old that he needed to be tough and just push through the pain. But in those moments, it was both helpful and convicting to remember that God does not grow tired of hearing the same thing. Indeed, there are some simple prayers I have said to my own Father for years, over and over again. But by grace, He does not grow frustrated with this. Instead, He compassionately receives our needs over and over again, even when it is the same need over and over again.

2. Praise God, He knows the right time and way to take action.

It was frustrating for me as a dad to not know exactly what to do to help my son. We tried a lot of things, each working better at some points than others. At some points, the ice cream would help but not others. At some points, the Gatorade was the remedy but not others. It seemed like, though, the solution never worked twice in a row, so we were forced into a pattern of trial and error to try and find some way to help with his painful throat. But praise God, He doesn’t do this kind of guesswork. God knows in His wisdom not only the right thing to do, but the exact right time to do it. He does not fumble around trying this thing or that, but instead operates from a posture of complete confidence in His ability to not only know but to provide exactly what we need, at the exact time when we need it.

3. Praise God, He doesn’t fall short of the remedy we need.

The little boy has taken a lot of medicine in recent days. But the medicine is only a temporary, short-term fix – the pain would always eventually come back, and we had to administer more medicine. That’s what pain relievers do – they don’t take away the source of the pain, they only dull our senses to it for a limited period of time. But praise God, He is able to administer a true and greater remedy. When we come to our Heavenly Father in pain, we are typically asking Him for some kind of medicine – a quick fix that will make us feel better, if only temporarily. But God does not settle for this short term dulling of the senses. Instead, He is so committed to our overall growth into the image of His Son that He will provide not necessarily what we ask for, but will lead us to the true source of the pain and work from there at a soul level.

These days have been a reminder to me that though I love my son dearly, I do not love Him in the perfect way that God loves His children. Though I provide for Him in the best way I can, I do not provide for Him in the best way God does for His children. Praise God, He is the true and good Father we are all looking for.

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