The class of seven and eight year olds had been asked if they wanted to write a prayer and read it out in assembly.
The smallest girl in the class wrote one that went: “Thank you for our home, God bless Mummy and Daddy and our Dog. Amen.”
The deputy head apologised for its thin nature and expressed surprise, bearing in mind the girl went to church and her family were heavily involved in church life.
I smiled and filled in the blanks that showed that for me it was one of the most profound prayers I had heard.
The family was made up of the parents, three children, (a pair of teenagers as well as the seven-year-old girl) and a springer spaniel puppy.
Their previous home was comfortable, but the new one ‘needed some work’ and was a running disaster. At the time the prayer was written, they had found a pipe under the house had not been connected for some years, the floorboards were up and a small lake needed to be drained.
The whole family were sleeping on mattresses in the front room, their puppy had shred the mattresses and the family relationships were decidedly fraught.
In her simple prayer that was shorter than an average tweet, this little girl had both given thanks for what she had and asked for God’s help in improving the situation.
Admittedly you needed to know the whole situation to appreciate the depth behind the simple words, but then Christians believe in a God who knows what we need even before we speak.
Indeed, Jesus used quite direct language when talking about prayer and brevity. He said: “And when you pray, do not babble on like pagans, for they think that by their many words they will be heard.”
People can often feel intimidated by prayer; what words to use, what form to use.
This seven-year-old had no such worries. She spoke from her heart, in love and with clarity about things that really mattered to her.
In essence this is what all prayers should be. Sometimes, as with poetry, others’ words can express with depth what we are feeling, but often it needs to be a ‘cry from the heart’ and trust that the Spirit will give us utterance.
Or, as the girl said in a falling down house with an out of control dog and an arguing household: “Thank you for our home, God bless Mummy and Daddy and our Dog. Amen.”