It can be hard to make sense out of what my three-year-old, Jacob, is trying to say. There are some sounds he just hasn’t quite figured out how to make yet, in particular “s-blends,” where s and some other consonant start a word. Snake becomes “nake,” snuggle “nuggle,” and the like. His speech is confusing to people who don’t know him well (“I goed wimming” is sure to throw any well-meaning adult for a loop), but those of us who are around him every day have learned to hear what he means. When he tells me he wants to nuggle, I giggle (on the inside, of course) and reach out my arms to pick him up.
Christ tells us, Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him (Mt 7:9-11).
My son doesn’t ask perfectly, but when he wants a “nack,” I head for the cheese sticks or the granola bars because I know what he means, and more than that, I know what he needs. In the same way, although our prayers and “askings” are frequently (always?) flawed, God still knows our hearts and more than that, he knows what is best for us. I try to remember this when my prayer is dry, or when even finding time to pray is hard. I don’t have to ask perfectly! My stumbling, awkward prayers are good enough—God knows what I’m asking. When all I can manage is, “Lord, please help!” he’s there, and he knows what I need, even if I don’t have the words to express it.
In the same way, it doesn’t take beautiful poetry or elegant words to praise God. I don’t need to sit in a silent room with the Psalms or a book of devotions for God to hear my praises. A quick “Thank you” for a sunset or a calmed-down child is enough, as long as my heart is in it. Considering how often parenting (and plain old life) reminds me of my failings and imperfections, I am glad to know that God meets me where I am. He is waiting, listening for whatever I have to say, ready to supply my every need.