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