“Dear God, I have a bit of emptiness in my heart. Please, help me to fill it up.” “Lord, make me your friend.” “I have so many fears; I ask You, help me to get rid of them.”
These are just some of the many prayers of the children in the catechism classes at the parish of the Navicella in Rome. We made a cardboard box, on whose sides we wrote “the box of prayers” with a marker. Then, we placed scraps of paper and pens beside it. Last year, both during the summer camp and during Lent, the box remained out in the courtyard; at any moment, one could stop there and write, ask. The dialogue with God, in fact, is always accessible, always open. Every day we took a prayer from the box, reading it to everyone as our common intention. In this way, the prayer of one person becomes the prayer of everyone: the prayer, in other words, of the whole Church.
In children, it becomes evident that asking is a permanent position of life. It is also clear how alive and well in them is the trust that there is Someone who listens to them, to all of the needs that they have. “God, make this trip to America beautiful and make sure that nothing bad happens to me.” “God, help me to always be stronger and closer to you, so that I don’t fall into sin.” “Lord, help those who still don’t know You and those who need Your help (as long as You want to!).”
Furthermore, the certainty that life does not finish here, on earth, is crystalline in them: “Dear God, I desire that my close friend Marco get a beautiful place in Paradise because he gave me great gifts and I want him to be given gifts as well.”
And then, a request like this: “Jesus, make my pains into gifts for You.”
In front of these questions of children, an episode that don Oreste Benzi used to tell came to mind. It was of a dialogue in which a mother said to her son, “Robert, say your prayers!” And his dry response: “I won’t say my prayers!” Fr. Benzi, at that point, interjected, “Ma’am, little Robert here doesn’t want to say his prayers; no: he wants to speak with Jesus.” And, getting close to Robert, he added, “Come close to me. Let’s speak with Jesus.” “We stayed there with our hands folded, in silence, and he, went on to the point that I had to tell him to stop, otherwise he would have continued!”
We are made for this profound dialogue with God. Educating children to prayer reeducates me, as it calls me to a simpler and more trusting relationship with God.
(photo Stefano Dal Pozzolo).