How Wishes Are Different From Prayers

My niece (we’ll just call her Princess) is absolutely adorable. She is 6 1/2 years old, and spending time with her is one of my favorite things to do. She is energetic, talkative, and beautiful inside and out. Her grandparents (and her uncle and I) are LDS, and sometimes she goes to Church with them. LDS children usually get baptized when they turn eight years old. We passed a church last night and Princess randomly said, “I don’t know if I am gonna get baptized. Daddy doesn’t want me to, but I told him that Mommy gets to choose. If she doesn’t want me to, I won’t, but if she wants me to, I will.”

I asked her what she wanted to do, and she said it was too big of a decision and that she didn’t know. I encouraged her to make her own decision, no matter what it would be, because whether or not you get baptized is a big deal, and it should be your own choice.

“I don’t really like church. I would rather stay at home and have fun,” she said.

“That’s okay, Princess. Have you prayed about whether or not to get baptized?”

She laughed and talked about how she just eats when her grandparents are praying over their food.

“Have you ever prayed before bed?” I asked.

What she said next broke my heart. “Yes, I did once on my first day of school. I prayed that I would get better at my math and reading, but it didn’t work. At least, I think it was a prayer. It might have been a wish. But it didn’t work.”

It didn’t work.

How many times have I thought this after a prayer? Too many to openly admit. The sadness in her eyes and voice made me want to wave a magic wand and make reading and math easy. And yet, she prayed, and the Master of All Things did not make math and reading easy.

Throughout the rest of our time at the mall, I tried to bring the subject up again, encouraging her to keep working hard and asking her if she felt any peace when she prayed even if she didn’t get what she wanted. She said that she did feel a little better after she prayed, but that math and reading was still really hard. I suggested that maybe she should pray for God to help her feel peaceful about her math and reading and to help her work hard, and she asked, “so I can cry less?”

I explained that sometimes we have to go through hard things, and God doesn’t take them away so that we can get stronger. Sometimes rather than praying to make the hard things go away, we have to pray for the strength to make it through.

On the ride back from the mall, I mentioned that her uncle and I are looking for a house, and once we get one, she will be able to come spend the night. I told her we just looked at one that had a big yard and a pool, and she said we should get that one. I agreed because I have never been in love with a house as much as I love this one, but I explained that it isn’t always that simple.

“If you pray, then God will let you get that house,” she said. I smiled briefly wishing that it really worked like that.

“Princess, you’re right. If I pray, we might get that house, but we also might not get it. God might know that there is a better house out there waiting for us, and if we buy this one, we won’t be able to get the perfect one. Either way, though, we will still be led to the perfect house.”

“Well, why don’t you just pray for that then?” she asked.

As I drove the car, she helped me pray that we will find the right house for us – one with a big yard where our future kids and our Princess niece can run and play and make memories.

And we also prayed that she will find peace and the strength to work hard at school, because learning to read and do math is hard work.

I guess it doesn’t matter how old you are. Sometimes, you want to treat prayers like wishes, but if we just have the faith to let go of our will, things will turn out right in the end.

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