Prayer is an act of establishing relationship with God. Every individual, including children, has his/her unique method of connecting with God. But aren’t children too young to understand the spirituality involved? If yes, then how do they pray? My book, “God Can You Tell Me What To Say…When I Pray?” is an exact answer to your question. It is the story of a seven-year old child Stephen and his attempt to connect with God.
And He said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:3
Innocent as they are, children usually manage to find a way to achieve their objectives. When it comes to prayer, they use their limited comprehension and use it to convey their thoughts and feelings to God. Lacking though it might be in terms of structure, the simplicity in itself is sufficient for God to recognize the sincerity involved.
Source of Inspiration for the Book
Writers are often asked – what truly inspired you to write this book? Replies are often as varied as the authors and their stories. It could be a life-changing event, a simple observation, a domestic setting, or an interesting conversation. To this effect, my source of inspiration was totally unique, so much so that it was an experience in itself.
I have a lot of faith in prayer and subconsciously, may be this acted as an inspiration. One day I had a dream about a little boy named Stephen wherein he was trying to figure out how to pray. After a short mental and emotional tussle, he finally put the question – God Can You Tell Me What To Say…When I Pray? Suddenly there was a background voice that commanded – Sybil, write it!!!
Puzzled that I was, to be honest I really struggled inwardly over the next few days as to whether or not I should write. To procrastinate is human, and that is precisely what I did for one week. And then I had another dream. Contradictory though it may sound, this second dream was more of a wake-up call, a reminder. All I know is that I woke up with a start only to hear a voice saying ‘I said write’ and that the child’s name should be Stephen.
Whatever hesitation or procrastination I might have had just vanished. I picked up the pen on a priority and started writing. So intense was the shake-up that I continued to write till I finished two books and am now working on the third one, not to mention compiling my memoirs.
Mrs. Volpe – My Kindergarten Teacher
“All you need is one person to believe in you and the world is yours. Just one…” – Annonymous
For me, that one person has been my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Volpe. To be honest, I was not exactly a picture of confidence in my school. It was during this crucial phase that Mrs. Volpe took me under her wing. She inculcated in me the feeling of being special and expressed faith in my abilities. At a tender age that I was, this made all the difference to me. To have someone believe in you and have faith in your abilities is probably the best thing that can ever happen to a child.
Mrs. Volpe always believed in women being special. She always held that given the encouragement and confidence, women could achieve anything they wanted to, irrespective of their backgrounds. Ethnicities never really mattered to her. In her opinion, if you were a woman, you just had to be an achiever.
Even today she continues to empower women through organizations like the Soroptimist International School of Oceanside-Carlsbad. Looking back, I feel she was always a Soroptimist at heart and in action. What this platform did was to channel her energy and enthusiasm and enable her to reach many more women who needed her support.
Today, I would like to take this opportunity to let her know how grateful I am for all the guidance that she gave me.
Having God As My Invisible Friend
From a very young age, I held a strong connect with God. Unlike other kids of my age, I looked forward to Bible study sessions and found it fascinating. Even though I was too young to understand what spirituality meant, deep within me something stirred. It was fascinating at first, but soon transformed into faith so strong that no power in the world could have moved it.
For some reason, at seven years of age – I was as old as Stephen at that time – I regarded God as my friend. To me he was a friend whom I could not see, but was always around me. He was also a friend who could listen endlessly to everything I had to say without being judgemental.
Not even a day went by when I may not have spoken to God. In addition to the daily prayer, I used to look into the mirror and talk to God. Rather, I used to confide in him about everything in conversational tones, like Stephen. At that age, I was convinced that for me God was the best possible confidante, and I feel so even today.
So, my connect with God was established when I was as old as Stephen. Also, it was in very much the same way as it is with Stephen. It is a bond that I cherish and value till this day, and will continue to do so in future.
How Children Pray to God
Unlike adults, children view prayer as a form of conversation with God. For children, praying is not bound by rules, and there is no such thing as the ‘right’ way to pray. Praying simply means talking to God about things around them and discussing what is uppermost in their minds. For example, in his prayer, Stephen talks to God about every aspect of his life – his joys, fears, insecurities and sorrows. And not even for a moment does he doubt that God may not understand him.
The beauty of such a prayer lies in its simplicity. It concerns confiding in God problems the child might be facing, issues that might be bothering him, or asking for something that he feels he needs. A child treats God as a friend and treats prayer as a way of talking to him without being bound by methods or rules.
Isn’t it amazing?
Several people advocate that children should be taught how to pray. To kneel, bow your head, fold hands and use specific words is the universal method of prayer. But it is best to leave children to pray in whichever way they feel comfortable. If a child feels convinced that talking naturally to God is the right form of prayer, then it should be accepted as such.
Children trust easily and they have a lot of faith. So when they speak to God, they keep the prayer as real as possible, like Stephen. And it is something that adults can learn from them – the ability to talk to God anytime, anywhere, in any way and about anything.