What news could possibly compete with knowing that we who were once dead in our sins “have been made alive together with Christ” (Eph 2:4–6)? What brings us joy other than that Christ has “saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy” (Tit 3:4–7)? What happiness do we have besides the fact we have been made right with God (Rom 5:1)? What higher treasure do we share in than that God has set us apart for himself to enjoy forever (Tit 2:13–14; Eph 1:16–18)? What good news of great joy.

The only joy comparable is when we see and hear others impacted by this same good news. In his third epistle, John explains how he “rejoiced greatly” in learning of his spiritual children’s faithfulness to Christ (3 John 3–4). Similarly, Paul is refreshed, comforted, and overjoyed when he hears of the Thessalonians’ enduring faith and love (1 Thess 3:5–7). When he writes to saints in Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, and Colossae, Paul tells them how he continually thanks God for their faith.

To apply these letters to our lives is to rejoice in the faithfulness of Christians we know. Like John and Paul, we are to take great delight in hearing testimonies of how people in our churches, and believers we partner with, are standing firm in the faith. But to apply these letters to our lives is also to rejoice in the faithfulness of Christians we have not met. By mere virtue of these passages being included in the scriptural canon, we are directed to join in hearing of, and rejoicing in, the faith of Gaius and the Thessalonians—people we do not know. And so in this article, we follow this pattern by hearing good news of great joy from the Finley family and their prayer group. Whether or not you know them personally, scripture’s exhortation is the same: read and rejoice.

By mere virtue of these passages being included in the scriptural canon, we are directed to join in hearing of, and rejoicing in, the faith of people we do not know

The Impact We See Now

The Finleys are part of the weekly prayer meeting at Drouin Presbyterian Church. Early on Wednesday mornings, Christina’s four kids take it in turns to come along with her. As old and young gather to talk to God, her kids sit and listen too, looking forward to brekky in the local café afterward.

Tom, Mary, Kate, and James really enjoy coming. When asked what they like about prayer group, they all excitedly said, “because we get to go out to breakfast with everyone after!” One member of the prayer group said the kids “fight for their turn”—and not just because they get pancakes or a milkshake. First they sit quietly through an hour of prayer, Christina says,

They usually draw or have a book in their lap. It may not seem like much, but prayer group has been a blessing to us, and I don’t underestimate the spiritual benefits to my kids, of just showing up. Prayer group is a place where we’re surrounded by people who are excited to point us to Jesus. It’s widened our eyes to the place prayer has in all of life, and impacted our prayer life at home too. 

Indeed. While others’ eyes are tightly shut, the kids are watching. Here’s what they notice:

Tom: Sometimes I time the prayers on my watch, to see which is the longest.
Mary: I like how everyone says ‘amen’ all the time while people are praying.
Kate: I like to count how many times everyone says Jesus!

I like to count how many times everyone says Jesus!

—Kate, 7yrs old

Prayer group is proving to be a blessing and encouragement to these four kids. It’s helping them think through what prayer is; it’s giving them models of prayer to imitate; it’s providing opportunities to develop intergenerational relationships with people in their church family, who they can love and learn from; and it’s providing them with an excuse to enjoy a delicious breakfast!

Other members of the prayer group were all eager to share the encouragement they felt in having the kids come. Albert reflected, “It’s really good. It shows that this group isn’t just for oldies, even if many of us are balding and have white hair.” Two self-described oldies who fit within that category are Wally and Anne. They said,

We were thrilled when Christina brought her kids. To see young people willing to give up their time—even if it means sitting quietly for an hour—is a delight. We love them. 

The Impact We Hope To See Later

Wally and Anne also emphasised their hope that the kids would reap benefits long into the future:

They seem to take it all in. Genuine prayers from the heart—that’s what we like the children to hear. All these different ways of talking to God. Even if they’re just listening. They hear it. And they realise it just comes from people’s hearts. And that they can do it too.
I [Anne] didn’t grow up trusting in Jesus, but I learnt many hymns and verses and prayers as a child. In times of trouble, what came to me? Those words I had stored up without even realising it. That’s what I want for these children too. To listen and learn from joining us in prayer, even if they don’t always understand in the moment. When the time comes, God will use it. Let them hear it early and enjoy it early—even if they’re only listening. It’ll come to them later.

This is certainly the impact we hope and pray for. Even now, we rejoice in seeing the fruit already being produced in the Finley children. May our prayers for the children we know imitate the prayer so often prayed between the cold hours of 7 and 8 on a Wednesday morning: “may Tom, Mary, Kate, and James never know a day apart from Jesus.”