Thursday, April 15
by Jacky Bramma
“Hands together, and eyes closed,” were the words I heard at the start of each weekday, as the head teacher led our primary school assembly in the gym. It was a short time of hymns and prayer, along with the announcements for the day. (There was no PA system in those long-ago days!) As for the prayers, I only recall hearing the Lord’s Prayer, which we recited by rote, and somewhat robotically. I also remember being more than a little puzzled by the “power and the glory” at the end, thinking that the “power” had something to do with electricity.
Our family attended the local Anglican church in England, but there was no Sunday School program for us children. I confess that I found the services pretty boring, and would sometimes amuse myself counting the number of stones in a section of wall, while the priest spoke and sang the words of Morning Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer. For my family, prayer was strictly for Sundays at church. My first venture into personal prayer was when I found a dead bird, and decided it should have a funeral. I put it in a cigar box, then realized didn’t know what to say. I figured it had to be something pretty fancy, so when I found a copy of the Lord’s Prayer in French, left behind by the previous owners of our house, I decided that that would do the job. The fact that I had no idea how to pronounce the strange words didn’t deter me, and the bird was duly dispatched.
As my faith grew and matured, I came to appreciate the beauty and meaning of the words of the liturgy, but it was a long time before I learned that prayers did not have to come from a book, and did not require flowery language. It was such a relief to read in Romans 8:26, ”We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” I realized that opening my heart to God was the starting point for personal prayer. It was more about being authentic than being eloquent, and it was okay not to know what to say.
Children are not often mentioned in scripture, but we know that Jesus welcomed them (Matthew 19:14). He affectionately calls his disciples “my children” (John 13:33). Indeed, we are all God’s children, regardless of age. When the chief priests were indignant at the children’s cries of “Hosanna!” in the temple as Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, he reminded them, ”From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise” (Psalm 8:2) So, even if chronologically we are not actually children, we are called to be child like in our relationship with God the Father, and to be open and honest in our prayers.
It is the (sometimes brutal) honesty of children which makes their prayers so touching. Here are some which I came across in the porch of an ancient country church in the UK. The village children had been invited by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to write a letter to God:
I think about you sometimes, even when I am not praying. (Elliott)
I went to this wedding and they kissed, right in the church. Is that OK? (Neil)
I bet it’s hard for you to love everybody in the whole world. There are only 4 people in our family. And I can never do it. (Nan)
I would like to live 100 years like the guy in the Bible. (Chris)
Thank you for the baby brother, but what I prayed for was a puppy. (Joyce)
Please put another holiday between Christmas and Easter. There is nothing good in there now. (Paul)
In addition to our spoken prayers, writing to God can be a lovely way to deepen our relationship with him. It doesn’t have to be a work of literature; we just need to be willing to say what is in our hearts.
Loving Father God, help me to pray.
Thank you for always being ready to listen to me.
May I also find time to be silent, and to listen to you. Amen