Children are supremely confident of their parents’ love and power. Instinctively, they trust. They believe their parents want to do them good.

If you know your parent loves and protects you, it fills your world with possibility. You just chatter away with what is on your heart. It works the same in the world of prayer.

If you learn to pray, you learn to dream again. I say “again” because every child naturally dreams and hopes.

To learn how to pray is to enter the world of a child, where all things are possible. Little children can’t imagine that their parents won’t eventually say yes. They know if they keep pestering their parents, they’ll eventually give in. Childlike faith drives this persistence.

But as we get older, we get less naïve and more cynical. Disappointment and broken promises are the norm instead of hoping and dreaming. Our childlike faith dies a thousand little deaths.

Jesus encourages us to believe like little children by telling stories about adults who acted like children: the parable of the persistent widow, who won’t take no for an answer from an unjust judge (see Luke 18:1-8), and the parable about a man who badgers his neighbor to lend him three loaves for a friend who has come at midnight (see Luke 11:58).

On the rare occasion when Jesus encounters an adult who believes like a child, he stands on a soapbox and practically yells, “Pay attention to this person. Look how he or she believes!”

He only does that twice; both times the person was a Gentile, from outside of the community of faith. The first is a Roman officer, a centurion, who is so confident of Jesus’ ability to heal his paralyzed servant that he asks Jesus to heal without even visiting his home. He tells Jesus, “But say the word, and let my servant be healed” (Luke 7:7). Jesus is stunned. He turns to the crowd following him and says, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith” (7:9). The second is a Canaanite woman whose daughter is possessed by a demon. Even though Jesus rebuffs her, she keeps coming back. Jesus marvels at her faith, giving her his second Great Faith Oscar: “Woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire” (Matthew 15:28).

The Gospel frees us to ask for what is on our hearts.

–excerpted from  Paul E. Miller’s A Praying Life