Introduction and Overview
Children are fully spiritual beings. They often see and sense the sacred in everyday life more readily than adults do! If we listen to them carefully and bring this awareness to their art projects and other forms of expression, we may detect a transcendent quality to their experiences. Lack of a sophisticated vocabulary can obscure this reality but if we listen carefully, we can often perceive evidence of early encounters with Spirit. Looking through a less complicated and less cluttered life lens, children seem to have more immediate encounters with the Divine Presence and they receive stirrings of the heart at face value. All of this makes childhood the perfect time to begin sharing about prayer and worship.
Like any Friend, children benefit from a guide along the path, occasions to intentionally hone their skills at listening for God, and a vocabulary that can shape, hold, and communicate their experiences. There's no substitute for matter-of-fact, ongoing, low-voltage sharings of a parent's or a First Day School teacher's faith journey. There's power in simple conversations about gratitude, love changing lives, the feelings that accompany leadings, coming to clearness on what is the right thing to do, and other descriptions of our inner experience. These chats validate a child's first steps on his or her spiritual journey and signal that reflective, faith-disclosing conversations are valued and held tenderly. The words, a vocabulary of Quaker faith, offer a framework to organize thought about these inner happenings and perhaps even help gel distinct memories of them.
There are lots of different ways to pray. And it is good to try out different ways and see what seems to make the connection with the Divine Presence clearer and more alive for you. Each one of us is the expert about how this listening or opening ourselves to the Light is going. There are lots of words to use for God or Spirit or the Inner Guide or Light. If one word feels uncomfortable or distracts you in some way and you find all that you are doing is thinking about what is making you uncomfortable, try out using another word! The words aren't the important part, the experience is.
To welcome Quaker children into the realm of prayer, I have deconstructed some of the basic components of a prayer practice and crafted hands-on, hearts-on activities to let us play our way into a familiarity and comfort with listening in the Light. I've included ways to help us:
On my Quaker journey, I have come to believe that:
Prayer is for everyone.
Prayer is for any moment, situation, or mood.
We get better at Listening for God, the more we do it.
Prayer changes us; it opens our hearts and our imaginations toward
more loving ways of living.
I'd love to hear about your adventures on the Quaker journey! Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Religious Education Coordinator,
New England Yearly Meeting
updated February 8, 2012