But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,
“‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise’?” (Mt 21:15)
Reading through the gospel of Matthew, I have been struck again by the emphasis Jesus put on children.
At that time Jesus declared, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;" (Mt 11:25)
As adults we can often major on our responsibility to teach the children, to impart to them our wisdom, our experience, our knowledge. This is right and proper, we should train them in the way that they should go so that when they are old they will not depart from it. But are we as open when it comes to receiving from our children? Jesus said there would be things revealed to the children that would not be revealed to the wise and learned. The implication is that if we only instruct our children, but do not listen to them we are missing part of the picture. Sometimes, like old Eli, it takes a while for this penny to drop... they just may have caught something from God that we have not!
We had a recent example in our congregation of a family who went to Estonia on a mission trip. Before their journey their young son had a dream from God with specific details about a man they would meet and how they would meet him. They did indeed have their most significant encounter with a man who matched all the details from that dream. God didn't give the dream to the dad, or to the mum, but to one of their children.
Jesus said something else quite remarkable, and quite puzzling about children:
"See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven." (Mt 18:10)
Now I don't pretend to understand the full significance of this, but I do have a few ideas. Angels are heaven's messengers, dispatched from God to minister and bring messages to those on earth. When Jacob had his dream he saw them both descending and ascending. Perhaps the messages, like the messengers go both ways. Since the word angel and messenger are one and the same, this is certainly the implication in this verse: their messengers always see the face of the Father. And if their messengers always get through then so must their messages - their prayers.
I was talking to a friend last night. He shared with me that he had be totally healed of a cold for the first time. Until then his experience had always been, go to the ministry line with a streaming nose, get touched powerfully by God, but still go back with a streaming nose. This time was different, and do you know who prayed? His daughter - "Please Jesus make daddy's cold all better. Amen." That was it! But that was all that was needed, because the message got through!
In our own household we have spotted a pattern. The nights when Andrew sleeps the best, are the nights when we asked Michael to pray for him! God delights to answer the prayers of children! I tell you, I'm not wasting my son's prayers on just "Help me sleep nicely" any more. I'm getting him to pray for all kinds of things now!
Jesus himself said we had a lot to lean from our children:
And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 18:2-4)
We should never exclude them from what Jesus is doing in his church, for they are just as significant, if not more so, than the adults:
“Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 19:14)
Is it time we raised our expectation of what God is doing in our children? I think so. Is it time to include them in our prayers and our ministry? I think so. After all what do the scriptures say: that your sons and your daughters will prophesy, or that they will play with colouring books?