To pray well, we only need to pray like a child.

Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although youhave hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” ~ Lk 10:21

Many a night over the past 25 years, I have perched on the edge of a child’s bed to say prayers before turning out the light. While we sometimes said the Act of Contrition or another formal prayer, more often we would choose an offering from one of several children’s prayer books on the bookshelf. These prayers were simple, brief and beautiful. They drew on the ordinary materials and concerns of a child’s day—a new school, a sore throat, the smells and sounds of Christmas.


When Dad was traveling, we said: “Lord, Please protect all those that we love as they travel. Help them to feel your love with them as they go and bring them safely home to us.”  When the child had had a no-good, horrible, terrible day, we sought reconciliation with this verse: “Forgive me for the angry words/I didn’t mean to say,/ Forgive me for the fit of sulks/That spoiled a happy day."

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Although my children are older now, I still try to incorporate the simplicity and vulnerability of these prayers into my own prayer life. Many of us hesitate to pray because we fear that we won’t do it correctly, that we won’t use the right words.  But to pray well, we need only pray as a child does. God doesn’t need serpentine sentences with lots of subordinate clauses. No, God wants the small voice saying, “Dear God, thank you for knowing all about me and still loving me.” It’s that simple.

RELATED: Read all of our Advent reflections for 2016


Loving Lord, may I pray this day as a child does, with an open heart, plain talk, and complete trust in you. Amen.  

For today’ readings, click here.  

Elizabeth Kirkland Cahill is an author, lecturer and Biblical scholar. She is the co-author, with Joseph Papp, of Shakespeare Alive! (Bantam Books), and is a contributor to Commonweal and America.

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Bruce Snowden
1 year 3 months ago
Hi Ms. Cahill, - Talking about pint size prayers, maybe you know this First Communion Prayer, taught to us pint size first communicants as follows. “You have come to my heart Dearest Jesus, I’m holding you close to my breast, I’m telling You over and over You are welcomed a Little White Guest. I love You, I love You my Jesus, so please do not think I am bold, of course You must know that I love You, but I’m sure that You like to be told.” Then having learned and sung that hymn in class over and over again, some “crazy” theology was next – Sister said, “Now children when you receive Jesus, don’t bite the Host. You might hurt little Jesus!!!” Sister must have been joking a bit, but I for one, even then, tended to take stuff literally, not so much in my latter years. So I believed her and I dared not let my teeth touch the Host. Hmmm, didn’t Jesus say “Take and eat” so how does one eat without using teeth? This post isn’t so much about the above, as it’s about your brief ending prayer, in which you clued us in on how to pray, doing so with “open heart,” and “plain talk,” with “complete trust.” I agree entirely and try to do so with varying degrees of success, baby steps and pint size prayers, helped a lot by imaginative flights of fancy. Being exposed to Jesuit Spirituality through AMERICA Magazine and reading James Martin, S.J. and other S.Js, along with fiftytwo years of Franciscan involvement in First and Third Orders, where imaginative prayer is a “how to do it” training, I’m pretty much tuned into to that kind of thing. For me the really hard part of prayer is to trust in God completely. I say I do, at times it actually works, but for the most part truly trusting God without doubt, or reservation means some tail draging. Someone told me that struggle is actual proof that I do trust because I want to do so, similar to the axion I guess, “Exceptions to a Rule prove that the Rule does exist.” That’s fine with me, allowing me to leave the “rest” whatever that is, to Him! Thanks for your Advent Meditations. Don’t expect that I’ll Post on all your Meditations, but maybe just as the Spirit moves, I trust!
Luis Gutierrez
1 year 3 months ago
Beautiful meditation, and the choice of the child praying at her mother's knee reminds me that God is my Mother.


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