Why Prayer is like Potty Training

Parent Magazine

Parent Magazine

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:11 NRSV)!

I have to confess I am not a potty training overachiever. I despise potty training. I’m trying to get my special needs toddler ready for preschool by potty training him, and it’s not working. I’m ready to give up. Honestly, I wish I could send him to a potty training school for a week so someone else could train him. Potty training is not for the weary or faint of heart. It’s also not for the squeamish. I’ve had to clean poop off the walls, furniture and carpet. It seems like my son poops everywhere except for in the potty.

In order to maintain my sanity during this process, I’ve been in fervent prayer.

“Lord, please give me the strength and patience to clean up this poop yet again. Lord, please help me to realize that poop on the carpet is not a big deal. It’s just poop.”

As a result of all of this prayer, poop and frustration, I realized that prayer is a lot like potty training. There are several reasons. One is that during both you’re most likely in tears and at a point of desperation (just kidding).

Anyway, here a few ways that prayer is like potty training. I hope it encourages you to keep pressing.

1. You have to be consistent – All parents will tell you that you have to be consistent with potty training. I think this is the main key to training a child. It’s the same with prayer. You have to train yourself to seek God first so that when you need direction, comfort, peace, healing, etc., you automatically come to Him first (Matthew 6:33). When you’re consistent, it becomes part of your character and habits.

2. There are levels to both. There is a progression – From what I’m told, your child will move through phases of potty training. There will still be accidents. Your child may start with pull ups and progress to cloth underwear. When it comes to prayer, Jesus tells us to ask, seek and knock (Matthew 7:7). Seeking is harder than asking. Knocking takes more effort than seeking. Since we know there are levels to our faith, then we shouldn’t be so quick to give up if God doesn’t answer our prayer on the first go round!

3. You have to be patient – Potty training takes a great deal of patience. Scrap that! Raising children in general takes a WHOLE lot of patience. In the same way, when you pray, be patient. Keep watching for the manifestation and keep praying. Just because God doesn’t answer your prayer in that split second doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. There’ve been prayers the Lord answered for me right in that moment and there have been prayers I’ve had to wait to see the manifestation.

“Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8 NRSV).

QUICK EXAMPLE – When I was in seminary, I landed a graduate assistant position as the editor of the school newsletter. The position provided me 100 percent tuition remission. However, I didn’t have a computer. After I found out I had the job, I went into my dorm room, plopped face-down on the bed and cried out to the Lord and asked him how could I layout and design the newsletter if I didn’t have a computer. In that same moment, in a split second, my telephone rang. It was my stepmother. She said one of the mothers from our church died and her son wanted to know if I wanted her computer. Tears immediately began pouring from my eyes because God answered my prayer. After that, I knew God would take care of me. In the same way, He will take care of you.

4. You have to be calm – The Bible tells us to be anxious for nothing, but in everything to make prayer and supplication to God (Philippians 4:6). It’s the same with potty training. Your child won’t be able to learn how to use the restroom if you’re constantly losing your temper. You have to be calm and give your child the same grace and room for error that we received when we were in our potty training stage.

5. You have to trust – Sometimes, you will feel like your child will never get potty trained. Sometimes, you feel like God will never answer your prayer because you’ve been waiting so long. However, God wants us to trust Him and His timing. Your child may not be showing any signs of being potty trained, but it will happen in due time. In the same way, you may not immediately see the manifestation of God’s “Yes,” but if you keep persevering, you will see the answer to your prayers.

I’m not endorsing Clorox bleach, but this commercial pretty much sums up my life right now.

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