Years ago I visited a Sunday School class where the teacher was talking to a group of young children about prayer. She explained how important it was to go to God with their hearts, cares and concerns while a number of the kids were getting wiggly and distracted. All of a sudden a little boy popped up on his knees, turned around to his friends and said, “You guys, REALLY, when you talk to God, He LISTENS!” It was one of the most profound messages on prayer I think I’ve ever heard, not only because of the simplicity of his words, but also because of the great faith expressed by a six year old boy. I’ve often reflected on that day and Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:3, “Unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” The older we get, the more we tend to complicate things, including our approach to God in prayer. This child would simply tell you to tell Him what is on your heart and mind, knowing that He hears you. He could tell you with confidence that when you approach Him, He is ready to spend that time with you.
In another classroom, a teacher introduced the children to a new practice as they entered the room each week. They were given space on the walls to write out the ways in which they had seen God at work during the previous week. And in another space they were invited to write out the things that were difficult or painful for them. You might think that a bunch of 8- and 9-year-olds would opt for the other available activities at the beginning of the hour, but week after week we saw kids go straight to the wall, pick up a dry erase marker and write out, before the Lord, their thoughts and reflections. They had been introduced to a practice, although simplified, known as the Daily Examen.
The Examen is an ancient approach to prayer attributed to Saint Ignatius that simply encourages us to take a few minutes, usually at the end of the day, to reflect before the Lord on all the ways that you have noticed his activity in you, your life, and the world around you. It is a way of slowing down enough to pay attention to what is going on in your life, and like that little boy, to take it to your Heavenly Father, knowing that He hears.
Consider this simple way of practicing this approach to prayer next week: Set aside a few minutes, before getting too sleepy, to slow down, be still with God and review the events of the day with him.
Pray through these two questions: What things that were life-giving to me? What things were life-draining or difficult? Give thanks for the ways you’ve seen God at work in your life and ask him to give you grace for what is to come in the next day. Whether you are apprehensive, peaceful or excited, talk to God about it. In child-like simplicity, take your honest thoughts to your Heavenly Father with the deep conviction that He really listens.
Director of Children’s Ministry