Children are not instinctively religious. Once when a preacher’s sermon dragged on beyond supposed 12:00 noon scheduled close one little girl leaned over to her mother and whispered, “Mommy, if we give him the money now, will he let us go?” Irreverent, perhaps, but honest.
Paradoxically, it is this bluntness that makes children the most natural pray-ers. Jesus says as much in an exchange with his students recorded in Matthew 18. His followers asked him how rank would be determined after the coup they assumed (erroneously) he was mounting against the Roman occupation. They asked, “Who will be the greatest?” His answer stunned them. He called a little child to stand beside him and said, “Here is your role model. If you want to know how to live life as I have designed it, become like this child.”
Anyone who has heard a child pray understands the radical implications of Jesus’ answer. Children are generally oblivious – until we condition them otherwise – to the prim and proper forms of right religion. For a child, talking to God is just that – talking. No matter is too small or too great for prayer. I have listened to my own children pray for farmers who need rain for crops, every orphaned child in the world, and a sick toad all in the same breath. They really can teach us something.
Here’s a challenge: Listen to a child pray today, and go and do likewise!