A Fragment of Prayer
My nearly 9-year-old grandson (who lives far away) screwed up this paper and threw it in the bin:
"I hardly want anything at all. But I want my friends to like me more, I hardly think they like me. PS can I have a good birthday please???!!!"
His Mum doesn't know what it is from — perhaps a school writing exercise though it doesn't have a title. It looks to me like prayer, whether to God or a fairy godmother figure. But that's unlikely as he doesn't know about God, and the class is too old for fairy stories or letters to Santa. As you might imagine, this little fragment weighs heavy on my heart. It is like an archaeological inscription or a cryptic message in a bottle. Of course, his Mum can't ask him about it — it was not for her and was in the bin! So we extract what meaning we can and ponder its implications. Kids (and big kids too) are very concerned about where they belong, who is their family, what is their identity. It really hurts mental health to not be well connected. But this writing exercise (if that's what it is) is intriguing. Getting kids to express their longings to a spirit-figure, in whatever way that might be framed, helps them to be honest about their real needs. Whoever my grandbaby is writing to has the power to give him a good birthday. And that figure also (maybe) has the power to make his friends care more, though this is not framed as a request, just a desire. This child (who was until recently so obsessed with gifts when I visited) now realises that toys and things don't matter. Only love. His Mum thinks that being honest to yourself about your needs is just mindfulness meditation. I had to think of what to say. Yes, it is similar to mindfulness, but prayer also recognises that there is a real someone listening, engaging, and able to do something. Someone who cares about us as much (or more!) than we do. It is possible to meditate and end up just rehearsing (polishing!) our excuses, accusations, and complaints. But talking to the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful God of the Universe is a real clarifier of truth and conscience. God knows who we really are and what we really need. I recall the first verse from a Sunday School hymn that I can't find on the internet now: "I cannot hide away from God He is so great and high He knows my heart, He reads my thoughts And hears me when I cry."
Perhaps this was considered scary and was discontinued. But I would like to be able to sing this to my grandchildren, giving them also, of course, the theology of a loving, caring, Father who is really listening when we speak our heart, and who knows who we are and where we belong... with Him, in joy, for eternity.