"See that you do not despise one of these little ones." (Jesus, in Matthew 18:10)
Today on Father's Day I was an unseen eavesdropper on our church's Sunday morning service. Because of the corona virus pandemic it was being conducted online via Zoom, but I had lost my internet access, and since I don't own a smartphone all I could do was listen to what was going on via the telephone. So I was very moved when I heard my daughter, now fifty years old, pray confidently and wisely for people who had never had the blessing of a good earthly father.
I recalled the day when at the age of four she first committed her life to the lordship of Jesus Christ. I had obtained a 'good news glove' for children from the Campus Crusade for Christ, a plastic glove with four differently coloured fingers which each declared a step in the gospel message. It was accompanied by a cartoon booklet explaining our need of Jesus to bring us to God. My daughter and her six-year-old brother asked me to read it to them. When we reached a page that showed a small boy and girl kneeling down to pray the sinner's prayer my daughter immediately knelt on the carpet and put her hands together in imitation. "Do you want to say this prayer?" I asked. "Yes," they both said. And there and then my children gave their hearts to the Lord.
Psalm 8 speaks of even younger children knowing God. It describes the Lord as 'Thou whose glory above the heaven is chanted by the mouths of babes and infants.' In that verse from Matthew 18 the Greek word used to translate 'little one' is micron. Micron is the root of English words like microgam, microchip, microfilm: anything that is really, really small. So Jesus was telling us not to despise, look down on, or underestimate even the teeniest, tiniest child. "See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven," he said.
The word 'angel' literally means messenger. Jesus was saying that every tiny child has a hotline to heaven - a personal messenger who takes their prayers immediately into the presence of God's throne room for his attention. When young children pray they never hear the message, "We are currently experiencing a large volume of calls and we apologize for any inconvenience. Your call is important to us and a customer service agent will be with you as soon as possible." For small children the receiver is picked up immediately.
My wife and I had two more children, and one day all six of us were climbing Great Whernside, a 2300 ft peak in the Yorkshire Dales. Our youngest son was two years old and I was carrying him on my back in a baby rucksack. Before long my daughter, who by then was seven years old, started complaining that her legs were aching. Her baby brother began wriggling on my back. "Do you want to get down?" I asked, thinking that perhaps he wanted to walk. I put him on the ground and he immediately went to his sister, put his hands on her leg, and shut his eyes. He didn't speak - he was still learning to talk - but it was obvious that he was praying for her. Her complaints ceased immediately and she was able to reach the summit and come back down without any further problem.
I think one reason that God answers so readily the prayers of small children is that they believe without question what they are told. Unlike you and me they pray with 100% faith that God is listening, just as Jesus did, and are certain that God will answer. In the Authorized Version of Matthew 21:22 Jesus said, "All things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive."
Before this morning's service I was reading a chapter from John Crowder's book, The New Mystics. Crowder believes that before Jesus returns there will be an extraordinary fulfilment of Joel's prophecy that God will pour out his Spirit on our sons and daughters, and that a vast army of young people will perform miracles of healing and deliverance and other signs and wonders that will bring multitudes to faith in Jesus Christ. He wrote, 'My own daughter was prophesying, speaking in tongues and seeing into Heaven at the age of 5; my 3-year-old son sees angels; and my 1-year-old daughter has already learned to lay her hands on people to pray in tongues, although she can barely speak any English yet. Children will have eyes to see the Kingdom, and in many ways they will lead us.'
Years ago I met a group of Christians who had been preaching at Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park, London. People speak on all kinds of subjects there, especially on a Sunday afternoon. A six-year-old girl asked her parents if she could have a go. She stood up on a wooden box and began to tell people to turn to Christ. A man in the audience challenged what she said, asking her a difficult question. She closed her eyes, looked up to heaven, and then came back with a good reply. This was repeated several times. The heckler became more and more annoyed as he couldn't get the better or her, especially when the other onlookers began to clap the little girl each time she answered him so perfectly. In the end the man stalked off in a huff.
Young children don't behave like that by accident. What they do they do by copying their parents. 'Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it,' Proverbs 22:6 tells us. So on this Fathers' Day I urge all Christian fathers and mothers, but especially fathers, to fulfil your spiritual responsibilty to train your children from their very earliest years in the ways of God, and not to put any limits on what your little ones can do in the realm of the Spirit. Do not despise one of your little ones. Before many years he or she could be among the leaders of Joel's army in the final great revival before Christ returns.