Never discount the power of a praying child


DC4K-Praying child

Those of us in children’s ministry have experienced children praying, and we’ve seen the Lord answer those prayers. I’ve heard everything from “Please pray for my cat to come home” to “Please pray for my daddy come back home.” I’ve also heard prayers such as “Tell my brother to stop hitting me” and prayers for other children, “Help Piper get over her cold.”

Most children pray expecting answers right away. After all, these are children with fast-moving minds. Today, though, I want to share a personal story of how God answered my childhood prayers after I became an adult. It’s also a story about divorce and a child I loved.

My brother is ten years older than me. When he was seventeen or eighteen—I really can’t remember which—he got married. They had a child, and at some point, they divorced. All I know is that I was an aunt at about seven years old.

I loved that little kid. He was like a little brother to my younger sister and me. We made him play with us and watch TV with us. We were quite the trio around the neighborhood. He was at our house all the time on the weekends and in the summer. After the divorce, we got to see him a lot. At some point, though, my brother joined the Army, and my nephew’s mom remarried.

Visitation ceases

After my brother left for the Army, we didn’t get to see Gene, my nephew, as often. Gradually, as I remember it, the visitations stopped. Gene’s new family moved out of town. At some point, I heard that Gene’s new stepdad wanted to adopt him. I don’t remember how old I was then, but I do remember praying, “Oh, God, don’t ever let Gene forget the Antles [my maiden name] and our home and all the fun we had. Help him remember Bartlesville [our hometown]. Give him some memory that he will always remember.” I remember looking up at the sky then and seeing a half moon. I asked God to help Gene think of our family whenever he saw a half moon.

Everyone’s life kept moving forward

Life moved forward. I became a teenager, and every so often, I’d think of Gene and wonder what he was doing and where he lived. My mother mourned the loss of her first grandson. His aunt went to our church, and every once in awhile, she would share a picture or a small tidbit of information about Gene. My mother clung to every word she heard about her first grandson.

I left home to go to college and got married and had children of my own. But I never forgot Gene. Down through the years, I often remembered the prayer I prayed as a child about Gene and would look up at the moon and wonder if he remembered us.

A Facebook private-message surprise

One day in 2013, I got a Facebook private message from a name that sounded vaguely familiar. I travel a lot and meet a lot of people at conferences, so I didn’t think much of it.

The message started, “Linda, I do not know if you recall me. I think you might. Not looking for anything. Just reaching out. Possibly we can start a correspondence. Look forward to your comments. Thank you.” It was signed Gene Antle and his adopted last name.

I hadn’t recognized my nephew’s name right away because he hadn’t registered his Facebook name as Gene, which was derived from his given name. So, with his different first name and his adopted last name, I didn’t recognize him as my long-lost nephew.

I sat there, just staring at that message. It took me several minutes for my mind to catch up with my heart. So many memories flashed through my mind in those few moments.

Did I recall him? Oh my, yes. For years, I had thought about him. He was family. He was my nephew. He was blood. We were connected.

The one memory that survived over the years

We started a conversation that has yet to end. We chatted on Facebook every night those first few weeks. At some point, I asked him what he remembered about our family.  

Here is what he wrote:

“One memory I have is one of your mother out hanging clothes on the line. (Remember this in the 1950s.) It seems to be early fall. Probably around 4 p.m. Your dad has come home, and for some reason, I have the impression that this is not usual. And your father comes to your mother and kisses her at the clothesline. I think the main reason I remember this is because there is a half moon rising. Every time a see a moon like this, the memory presents itself. “

Did you read that: “there is a half moon rising.” The prayer I had prayed as a child more than fifty years ago had been answered. My heart about jumped out of my chest. I sat there weeping.

Gene remembered going to church with us when he was just a toddler. He remembered laying his head on my mother’s lap and going to sleep. He remembered our old farmhouse where we used to play on the big front porch. The memories he shared brought back familiar memories that I also had and even some that I had forgotten about.

As we chatted, I learned that he had a son stationed at a military base about a half hour from my home. We made plans to meet up. When I walked into that restaurant, I recognized him right away. He looks like our family. I got to meet my great-nephew, his wife and my great-great-nephew and -niece. He has two other children and more grandchildren I haven’t met face to face yet but have friended on Facebook.

Over the many years, I had prayed that Gene would come to know Christ as his personal Savior at some point in his life. After our meal, I asked, “I have to know, do you know Christ as your personal Savior?” I was all prepared to start the conversation of how to do that if needed. His answer: “Yes, I do.” Ah, what a blessing the Lord had just given to me. Years of prayers settled in three words.

Gene and I have continued our relationship as aunt and nephew over the past four years. Connecting with my nephew has been fun, and since my sister passed away in 2009, this has given me someone to talk to about childhood memories. Via Facebook, he has been able to connect with many cousins. I’m forever introducing him to new family on Facebook.

Divorce—the non-talked about situation

Back in the 1950s, divorce was almost unheard of, and no one talked about it. Even in our own family, no one talked about what happened to Gene, where he was, how he was doing. No church leader or teacher consoled my mother, my sister, or me. But that didn’t make us forget Gene. Not talking about it only pushed my mother’s grief inward.

Even today, with divorce rampant, some church teachers still don’t understand all the issues these children of divorce face. They wonder where their cousins went. They question and hopefully ask God how their cousins are doing. They want someone to ask about their other grandma and grandpa, aunts, and uncles.

Sometimes, all they need is to be asked, “So how was it seeing your grandparents this past summer?” Take your cues from the children. If they don’t want to talk, that’s okay, but at least, you’ve let them know that it’s okay for them to have feelings and to want to talk to someone if they need to.

The loss of divorce is more than the loss of one parent. Divorce is the loss of an entire family. My nephew was blessed to have a stepdad who accepted him as his own son. My nephew survived, and probably because of the divorce and the loss of his extended birth family, family is very important to him. He protects his sweet wife, kids, and grandkids. He calls his daughters-in-law his daughters. He has strong family ties. Family is important to him.

Perhaps Gene is why the Lord laid it on my heart years ago to minister to kids of divorce and single-parent families. God knew that the personal hurt I carried with me for years would impact my heart for ministry.

Over the years, in addition to Gene, other kids of divorce have impacted me and pierced my heart. There have been so many. Some we have lost to suicide, drugs, or incarceration. None have been forgotten.

Over the years, we have learned how to better minister to kids in divorced families. Hopefully, we have corrected our dealings with them and teaching of them. Programs such as DC4K (DivorceCare for Kids) and DivorceCare for adults have been created and changed the course of life for so many children.

As I stated at the beginning of this post, never discount the power of a praying child. God listens to children. God remembers children. He loves the children—all children, even the children in divorced and stepfamily homes.

Every so often, when we have a bright moon shining in the sky, I get a text that says something like, “Bright moon tonight.” And in that moment, nephew and aunt connect family memories once again.

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” (Matt. 18:10)


DC4K blogs posts are great to use for training children’s leaders and volunteers and they are free.  Subscribe to the DC4K blog here.

Want to learn more about how to start a DivorceCare for Kids group for the hurting children in your community? Click here.

Did you know DC4K blog articles are on Pinterest? Divorce & Kids, Children’s Pastors, Single Parents, etc. It’s all there. Check it out here

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