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With all the defiance of a mongrel whelp, my four-year-old son stared me down and issued his answer: "No!" For the past four bedtimes, young John had become increasingly obstinate about praying.

"You're going to pray if I have to wait here all night!"

I heard myself utter this benign threat and had to wonder who let the crazy man in. What had happened to the wisdom of a hundred seminars on child rearing?

But if John could play his role, I was going to get an Oscar for mine.

"John, sit up and tell me what you want to pray for."

John ignored me and I panicked. Here I was, a pastor, a family counselor, a cherisher of boyhood memories, a crusader for handling children the right way. My jaw was tight, my lip curled, and above those was a top about to blow. (Would God enter the scene with a pearl of wisdom or at least an off-stage prompt? Apparently not. So I improvised.)

"John, you always pray. Isn't there someone you would like to pray for?" (John pretends he is asleep.)

"John, Jesus likes it when ...

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