We posed this question to a group of children (ages about 8-10) a few weeks ago: Is it possible to pray always? Several answers were like this, ‘well, not really because sometimes you have to do other things like eat and sleep’. I chuckled as I remembered how literal kids tend to be. As I enjoyed reading more responses similar to this, I began to feel the stark realization that we really needed to discuss what prayer is. Some may think that at first we need to teach prayers and define prayer as words we say, and then as they mature we can introduce other ideas of prayer as relationship, attitude, etc. But, perhaps we are doing it all wrong. Perhaps we should let the children define prayer to us.
Watching a child awed by nature, delight in a song, dance to an imagined tune…..isn’t that prayer? Listening to their questions, smiling at their giggles, entering their play-world, isn’t that prayer? Children are born knowing, they have an intimate bond with the Divine because they trust. They believe while we question. They try while we hold back in fear. They accept while we judge. They forgive while we remember, they jump in while we test the water, they love while we just like.
If we think of prayer as certain words we say at certain times, then they are so correct…..no we can’t pray always because we have to eat and sleep. If we think of prayer as living, then yes, we can pray always. Perhaps instead of teaching the children how to pray, we should simply recognize it in the joy of children.