let the children pray

Every night my twelve-year-old son, Joe, gives thanks for something different. Sometimes it’s “trees” or “all the colors of the world.”

I find myself waiting to find out what he’ll come up with next. It’s often something I’ve not thought about for a long time, and usually something I’ve taken for granted.

My other son, who’s a few years younger, has interesting prayers too. He recently started praying for “those in pain.” I have no idea what made him start saying this prayer, but it’s been going on all week.

I am learning from my children that there is a need for unstructured prayer, just like there’s a need for unstructured play. Children have to have a time and place during which they can just tell God whatever is on their mind, without being laughed at or having someone roll their eyes.

My husband and I also make up our own prayers before bed at night, so they learned it from us. The only thing is, I didn’t expect them to be so good at it! They are far better than I am. My husband has a wonderful prayer that he made up and says over and over—I like that one too. It starts, “God our Father, and Lord Jesus Our Brother, thank you for putting your Spirit in our hearts. Thank you for keeping us together and safe during this day…“

It has been a lesson for me to see that creative prayer can be such a delight. Letting our children pray as they see fit is a valuable window into their hearts. It allows us as parents to get an idea of what they think about, what bothers them, what they hope for, and how they imagine God. What a gift!

I recommend you let your children compose their own prayers aloud. Start as soon as they can talk. Of course, they will learn and say the Church’s prayers too—the Hail Mary and the Our Father are also part of my younger son’s daily routine, which he selected himself—and they will also learn to talk to God without being self-conscious and without trying to please others.

I would love to hear your children’s prayers too, so do share! We can learn from our children, to whom, after all, the Kingdom of Heaven belongs.

Copyright 2013 Julie Paavola