Poetry Mondays: Why doesn’t prayer work on sleepless children?

I think it’s time to bring one of my most-shared poems to a new home on this page.  I wrote it in 2012 when most of my nights consisted of pacing the floor with my baby son, punctuated by replacing my three year old in her bed.  With both of them, I often resorted to sitting on the floor next to them and singing hymns – the only songs for which my tired brain was able to dredge up all the words.  That’s probably when I came up with this.

Thankfully they both sleep a lot better now, but this modern mothers’ psalm seems to have struck a chord with lots of others.  For me, the very last line is still just as heartfelt.

Why doesn’t prayer work on sleepless children?

God, why doesn’t prayer work on sleepless children?
I mean, considering your flair with wine and water
your feeding of the five thousand
and the way you have raising the dead down to a T
I would have thought that settling this screaming baby would be relatively easy.

So why doesn’t prayer work on sleepless children?
Because it really, really doesn’t (I’ve tried over and over)
and although I’ve known prayer to work on sickness,
impossible tasks,
broken down vehicles
the weather
and lost property,
it never, never works on screaming sleepless babies.

Is it, Lord, because you were once a screaming, sleepless baby yourself?
Do you sympathise?
Do you remember what it’s like to need something,
and not know what it is,
and not have any words for it
only tears?

I suppose this baby is praying too,
crying out to you in the only way he knows,
and you have answered his prayer.
You have given him me.
And you have equipped me for the task:
you have given me a body that can nurture him,
arms that can hold and rock him
a voice to sing to him
a scent that comforts him
and a heart that loves him
even at 3am
even though he is screaming and snotty
and that teaches me about the way in which you love me
which, in turn, leads me to tell other people about the way in which you love them.

In fact, this baby is your evangelist
your teacher and preacher
your intercessor
for me, at 3am

which perhaps is why prayer doesn’t work on sleepless babies.
I suppose I should be thankful for that.

(But, God, if prayer can’t work on sleepless children,
Please could it work on laundry instead?)

Amen.

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