As many know from their experience, a child’s prayer is powerful, and God will often hear their sincere appeals to Him and grant them immediately. Children’s simple, honest and pure faith is pleasing to God. For most adults, such a degree of faith seems beyond their reach. Yet, the Lord has said, “anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:15) and likewise, “Be like children, for or the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14). The Lord’s saints have succeeded in following these commandments, making their spirited prayers heard by the Lord; they had their pleas answered and they inherited the kingdom of heaven. If that was possible for the saints, so it must be possible for us. So where should we follow the example of our children to pray like them?
Examples of children’s prayers that reached the ears of the Lord
The first place to look for such examples is the lives of the saints. For example, the life of Saint Nectarios of Aegina has the following narration from his childhood years.
Saddened by the state of poverty that his parents, at the age of fourteen and with his parents’ blessings, Anastasios went to Constantinople to find work for and in hope that he would be able to continue his studies and fulfil his dreams. Eventually, he found employment in a factory with a tobacco merchant. However, he was a young boy and his pay would barely be enough for his daily meals as he walked about barefoot and with ragged clothes. one day to make his prayer more living, he thought of writing a letter to Christ and telling him of his needs. And truly, he lost no time. He took a pencil and paper and wrote: “My Little Christ, I do not have an apron or shoes. Please send them to me. You know how much I love You. Anastasios.” He sealed the letter with confidence and wrote on the envelope: “To the Lord Jesus Christ in Heaven.” On the way, by divine economy, he met the owner of a merchant shop that was opposite where he worked. He also was going to the post office and offered the boy to send it for him. As he was about to mail the letter the merchant noticed the address noted on Anastasios’s letter. Conquered by the temptation of curiosity, opened and read it. He was overwhelmed with emotion as the man began to cry. He put an amount of money into an envelope and sent it, anonymously, to the boy.”
We hear more real stories about the power of a child’s prayer from people like you and me.
“One morning, the large Mikhailov family was waiting at the roadside trying to catch a ride to church. They had missed their bus and were hoping that a large enough van would stop and pick them all up. They had been waiting for a long time, but none of the passing cars stopped. They began to think about returning home. At that point, their older son said to his brothers and sisters,
“Let us all pray to God that He would send us a van,”
So the children chanted the prayer,
“Lord, please send us a van!”
The smallest girl in the family added,
“Let this car be green!”
“Any colour will suit us,” exclaimed their mother. “As long as it would get us there.
“But I want a green car,” protested the girl.
A minute later, a green minivan pulled over.
“Jump in, I will take you anywhere you like,” said the driver with a smile. I just need to stop by at one place. It will take less than five minutes. As they were on their way, they found out that the driver was going to their church.
In another family, a child’s prayer brought healing to his mother, both physically and spiritually. One woman parishioner shared this story of her churching.
“Olga used to be a stubborn atheist, and she was furious with her mother-in-law when she found out that she had taken her boy to church to be baptised. When the five-year-old boy told her that God existed and said that all people should have faith in Him, she was very upset. She tried to convince him otherwise, but her little Misha insisted, “God exists, I know it!” Three years later, Olga was diagnosed with a form of cancer. Her son pleaded with her to be baptised and start going t church. She had no choice but to listen. Immediately, her son began to pray vehemently for her recovery. The last-minute test before her surgery surprised all her doctors. It showed no trace of cancer in her body. Struck by this miracle, the doctors assumed that they had made a mistake in the original diagnosis. Yet Olga knew for certain that her son’s prayers had worked a miracle. Not only did they cure her of cancer, but they also brought her to believe in God.
So how can we learn to pray fervently, so God will hear our pleas? We need to cultivate in ourselves the qualities that we used to have as children but lost when we grew up.
What does it mean to be like children?
Certainly, the last thing that the Lord would have wanted for us was that we would stop in our growth and development. He wanted us to build physical and spiritual strength, seek virtue and pursue the talents that He had given to us. Sadly, as we mature in a world that lies in sin, we move away from the purity of our childhood. Yet, if we watch our children closely, we might notice how they can please God. From their birth, they already have many of the qualities for life in the Kingdom of Heaven, and we can learn from them a lot.
Unity of the mind, heart and spirit This capability of children is difficult to explicate, but it lets them give themselves up fully to joy or grief. It lets them live in the moment and be fully engaged in the events around them. There is no separation in their minds between the past, present and future. In their minds, the past lives in the present, and the present is predominant over their future. In a way, this mindset is a foretaste of everlasting life. The integrity and wholeness of children make them incapable of hypocrisy and insincerity.
Open hearts and minds Every day, children learn something new about their world, and their hearts are ready to embrace the word of God. With their knowledge and experience, adults have a more limited ability to have a connection with God in their hearts. They rely more on their minds.
Natural humility In the Gospel of Matthew, the disciples ask Christ, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” And the Lord said, “Whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4). From birth, children are humbled by their small size and limited knowledge of the world. It is not until we grow up that we begin to acquire pride, vanity and ambition, and abandon our natural virtues. Sometimes, we make the situation even worse by teaching our children to aspire for success and outperform others.
Kindly disposition to others In children, anger and hate to others is short-lived. As Apostle Paul said, “In regard to evil be infants.” (1 Corinthians 14: 20), because children do not sense an evil directed against them, and have none within them. Even when punished by an angry parent, children will run into their parent’s embrace with unconditional love, even as the parent is still feeling remorse at the shortness of his temper.
Belief in unconditional love A child’s faith leaves no room for doubt. In their simplicity and directness, they rarely ask their parents for anything that they cannot expect to be given; they do not doubt that they will receive from their parents good things like fish and bread, not a stone or a snake. To their parents, they take their sorrows, confident that they will be comforted and helped. Children’s ability to love and trust their parents naturally translates into their trusting relationship with God. Where a child learns to see their father as God, he will see God as their father.
As the New Martyr John Fedorov has said, one can reach the Kingdom of God in two ways. The first is taken by the saints who have pleased God with their righteous lives since birth. The second is one that God proposes to most of us; we take it by restoring ourselves to the humble spirit of a child’s faith, love, humility and limited trust in God. Let us all be persevering in following this path.