‘Dad. Daaaaad. Dad? Look Dad. Dadadadadadadadad.’
It was well after rush-hour on the tube. People working normal hours had gone home hours ago, but still the carriage was full of tired commuters resting their eyes or looking blankly at the pages of the Evening Standard. Silence, but for the rattling of the train on underground tracks.
And the persistent calls of a small boy.
Dressed head-to-toe in an Arsenal strip, he seemed like the sort of little boy who had everything a 4-year-old might need to be contented. As well as his football gear, complete with socks pulled up over the knees, he had a cool-looking comic full of colourful superhero stories, and a couple of pages of stickers.
Next to him sat his father who perfectly embodied the weary commuter, though the heavy shopping bags suggested it was more than work that wore him out that day. Sat down at last, he’d taken out his newspaper and handed his son the superhero comic, clearly hoping for a little peace and quiet.
Only, the small boy had no idea that reading a comic could be a solitary activity.
Sometimes, he spotted things that were super exciting.
‘Dad, Dad, look at this! I think this is a competition you can enter!
Sometimes, he wanted to share the mundane.
‘The pictures on this page aren’t as interesting as the last page Dad, I think I’m going to turn over now, okay?’
Sometimes, he needed just a little bit of help.
‘I can’t get the Robin sticker off Dad, Batman keeps coming off instead. Daaaaaaaaad, I can’t do it.’
Sometimes, he noticed other people doing cool stuff.
‘Have you seen these pictures of Batman, Dad? Other children drew them and sent them in. Aren’t they really good?’
Sometimes he had existential questions about life outside the comic.
‘How many more stops are we here for Dad? I thought it was three but then I thought it was four. Is it three? Dad?’
When his father let him see the pictures of the storms over London in newspaper, he took his confusion and concerns straight back to Dad.
‘Is it London the lightening is in, Dad? Is it really London? Is it London? London? …London, Dad?’
And a carriage full of stony-faced commuters couldn’t help but smile. He just didn’t seem to be able to stop, and the reasoning was clear. The more Dad was involved, the better life was.
Pray without ceasing, Paul says. We’ve learnt to internalise that monologue since we were each four years old, and I’m sure the small boy in the Arsenal strip will learn too. But I hope he learns to pray without ceasing in exactly the same way.
When something exciting happens, share it with God.
When you’re in the middle of the mundane, get God involved too.
Need a hand in a sticky spot? Try God.
Other people are always doing interesting things. Let God in on it.
When there are existential questions, God’s surely the one for the job.
And when God shows you something a little confusing, a little concerning, a little unclear, come straight back to him with questions.
This small boy’s dad was, I’m sure, a great father who engaged with his chatterbox son as much as his energy allowed. He tried hard, even in his weary state on the tube. The smiles from his fellow passengers were those of recognition, sympathy and endearment all together.
But God doesn’t run out of energy. He never tunes out. Never wishes we’d leave him to get back to his paper.
‘Pray continually’ means get back in touch with the desire to share life, and do it, every moment of it, with a God who loves to share his abundant life right back with us.