This year (2020) I was invited to share my thoughts in Sunstone's "Why I Stay" plenary session for their co...
Once, when I was subbing in primary, they were singing ”A Child’s Prayer”. I’ve always imagined this song highlighting the relationship between parents and little children as the parents guide them in the early stages of their faith. And while this certainly is a wonderful interpretation and message of the song, the Spirit planned on teaching me something new in this environment.
While I was in the middle of quietly singing along with the primary children, so as to not to stand out as the one guy in primary several octaves below everyone else, I had a tremendously strong witness that this song was for me, now, as an adult, more so than for when I was a child. Suddenly, I saw the lyrics in a completely new light.
A Child’s Prayer
The Infant Samuel at Prayer – Sir Joshua Reynolds
Heavenly Father, are you really there? And do you hear and answer ev’ry child’s prayer?
Throughout our life, all of us will have tragic moments. A death of a loved one. A wayward child. Job loss. A falling away in a relationship. Heart break. Faltering faith. Etc. In these moments we may question, “God? Are you there? Are you listening?”
Some say that heaven is far away, But I feel it close around me as I pray.
We can remember the way we’ve felt, from time to time, when we’ve had those sacred witnesses from the Spirit. We can remember the peace that was spoken to our minds and hearts in past trials and draw strength from that (D&C 6:22-23).
Heavenly Father, I remember now Something that Jesus told disciples long ago: “Suffer the children to come to me.” Father, in prayer I’m coming now to thee.
The archetype of an innocent and forgiving child is a model we must strive to never “grow out of” as we go through life. And to be surrounded by primary-aged children is a powerful reminder of this.
This first verse highlights the questions, the doubt, and pain we all have faced and will face in life. This life is full of poignant and sometimes painful questions and unknowns. But it points us at the Savior and remembering the lasting witnesses we’ve built our testimony on.
Then, for the second verse, I had an even stronger witness that this is not merely an earthly parent singing to a child (as is often portrayed in performances), but its true meaning is the quiet, sacred witnesses from the Spirit that is an answer to the sincere questions in the first verse at any time in our life. This verse is a pleading prayer from the Spirit to us:
Pray, he is there; Speak, he is list’ning.
In a moment of pain, suffering, or doubt we can still feel hope. The gradually rising melodic phrases here point towards the dawning of hope felt in that initial moment when we humbly desire to pray.
You are his child; His love now surrounds you.
So plain. So simple. The outpouring of love and joy felt when the Spirit testifies of these basic truths is endless.
He hears your prayer;
Much of the confirming answer to a prayer can come not just when we feel a yes/no answer, but when the Spirit confirms that God has heard our prayer. That God is mindful of our trials. And that God does care about and love us.
He loves the children. Of such is the kingdom, the kingdom of heav’n.
At this point, I looked around at all of the primary children reverently singing these final words with smiles on their faces and I didn’t want the song to end. I relished in the moment. The words of the song echo back and reverberate in the hearts of children and adults alike.
That day I learned that some of the deepest and most powerful witnesses of the Spirit may be happening the far corner of your church building on Sunday. And ever since then, I’ve tried to never turn someone down who asks me to substitute in primary.