The Faith of a Son

The Faith of a Son

John FarrellBy John Farrell8 Minutes

Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6)

As parents of two boys, my wife and I try to be there for our sons with whatever advice, encouragement, love, or discipline they need at the moment. If there’s a lesson to be learned, we’ll do our best to make sure they don’t miss it; however, sometimes the greatest lessons are the ones they teach us. Or remind us about.

Our oldest son, Hayden, has always had a very close, personal relationship with God. He told us recently that he feels like God may be calling him into the ministry. Realizing that he needed to be sure that this is what God’s telling him to do, after much trepidation, he told the youth minister at our church and the senior pastor at another church what he’s heard in his conversations with God.

He was worried at first about telling them because he wasn’t sure if a 14-year-old could experience this type of calling from God. He thought that perhaps they’d doubt him and tell him it wasn’t likely for someone his age to feel called to the ministry. When his youth minister told him that he was called at fifteen, Hayden’s anxiety and hesitation lifted a bit.

They both told him that whatever questions he had, they’d be more than happy to answer. However, they also mentioned that he needed to be 100 percent positive that he’s been called into the ministry because while it is a rewarding job, it’s also very demanding. If he goes into the ministry but hasn’t been called, there’s a good chance he won’t last. I guess God must have a way of weeding out those who truly haven’t been called.

Fortunately, he still has time to discern whether going into the ministry is truly what God wants for his life or if he should follow one of his other passions like chemistry or acting. Regardless of the path God chooses for him, I know he’ll always have a strong relationship with the Lord. One that is rooted in prayer and daily conversations.

A Middle School Lunch Conversation

On the last day of eighth grade, Hayden told me about a conversation he had with a classmate during lunch. The guy asked him why he prayed before lunch every day. Hayden’s response was honest: “Why wouldn’t I?”

The classmate replied, “Some people think you’re weird because you pray before lunch.”

Thinking nothing of it, Hayden only said, “So.”

The guy responded, “Why do it when others think you’re weird for doing it?”

Hayden replied, “Why should I care? If they think I’m weird because I pray before I eat, that’s their issue. Not mine.”

When Hayden told me this, my natural reaction as a father who wants their son to have many friends and be liked by all was to offer alternatives. I suggested that perhaps he pray while he’s in line buying lunch or on his way to the cafeteria — somewhere his praying wouldn’t be as noticeable … like sitting at the table in the middle of a crowded cafeteria with his head bowed and eyes closed.

I wasn’t suggesting that he not pray, but simply how he could adapt it a little so some of his classmates wouldn’t think he was weird. Then Hayden said something that hit home and made me feel ashamed for offering suggestions.

He said, “Dad, why should I change how or when or where I pray simply because a couple of students think I’m a little strange or because it makes them uncomfortable? I’m not hurting anyone, and I’m praying quietly. If they have a problem with me praying before I eat, that’s on them.”

He’s right.

When Did Prayer Become Uncool?

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Later that night, as I was thinking back on my conversation with Hayden, something kept gnawing at the back of my mind. Was it something he said or maybe it was something he didn’t say? And then it dawned on me.

It had to do with the whole notion of a person being considered weird for praying before lunch, even if it was in the middle of a crowded middle school cafeteria. When did it become uncool or taboo to pray before lunch?

I was at a loss for words. My wife and I were both raised in families that prayed before meals, and we still pray as a family before most meals (although I’m ashamed to admit that it doesn’t always happen for whatever reason). I cannot help but wonder if some of those same classmates who called Hayden names for praying before lunch pray with their family before meals.

Honestly, when I was growing up, I didn’t pray before lunch at school. Thinking back on those days, I don’t know if it was because I didn’t think about it or if I was too embarrassed to be the only one at my table praying. I went to a public school, and prayer wasn’t typically something you saw happen in school cafeterias in the ’80s and ’90s.

The U.S. Supreme Court banned school-sponsored prayer in 1962, but individual and small-group prayer isn’t outlawed. However, it’s obviously shunned by middle school and, I imagine, high school students … at least during lunch.

Regardless of what his peers thought of him, Hayden continued to pray before he ate his lunch. I’m proud of him for sticking to his faith when it may have been the unpopular thing to do.

He was right. Why should he change how, when, or where he prays just because it wasn’t cool? It wasn’t against the rules, and he wasn’t being disruptive.

Our conversation reminded me that I still have a lot of growing and learning to do in my own walk with Christ. And sometimes the most important lessons are those we learn from our kids and not the other way around.