December 2, 2006


One of my jobs lately has been to lead a liturgy of the Word for little children. It's supposed to include each element from the regular rite: reading, psalm, alleluia, Gospel, profession of faith, prayer of the faithful.

When it comes to the prayers at the end, I have them pray for the usual intentions of the universal church: the Holy Father, the bishops and our pastor, our diocese and our parish, the suffering world around us, the poor, the sick, the dying and the dead.

Then I ask them for their own intentions. So they pray for their parents, grandparents, and dogs and cats. Inevitably, one kid will say we should pray for God or Jesus. Pray for God? Why would you have to pray for God? At first I dismissed this inspiration as randomness. But it kept happening, so I was thinking about it.

Perhaps I framed prayer narrowly for them. I asked them, "who or what should we pray for?" This seems to imply that prayer is a response to a lack - there is something wrong, something missing, and therefore we need to pray for God to fix it, renew it, protect it, etc.

But this isn't all there is to prayer, or even prayer at its real heart. Prayer is the proper response of a creature who admits that she is a creature, who admits that he is not God. Yes, this is a lack, but it's a lack that's proper to our condition and which makes us who we are. So when the kids say they want to "pray for God" or "pray for Jesus," perhaps they just want to affirm God in his goodness, or praise our Lord for his compassion and obedience.

In any case, these little ones make me think sometimes.


Jeff said...

Hi Friar,

Working with little children in CCD, or with my own children, I've noticed this many times myself.

Perhaps when children first learn empathy their hearts are open and full of trust and they want to please those whom they trust. In the same way, they love their parents on whom they depend on everything, and they want to give to them in return. They think their parents must also have dependencies - and they want to give.

It's interesting, but I'm not sure I quite know the answer. I think it's beautiful in a way, and I'm sure God sees it that way too. Out of the mouths of babes...

Monk-in-Training said...

Yes the kiddos are amazing. I sent you an email about this, finding an Anglican book you might use as a basis for some of your work.

God bless.