Do you ever miss the simplicity of being a child? Those carefree, candy-licking, nap-taking, running barefoot in the backyard kinds of days? Most people have reminisced over these moments at one point or another. What is it about these moments that keeps drawing us back? I believe the part of those memories that is so attractive to us is the simplicity of them. And if we could remain this simple as we grew older, our love for Christ would increase remarkably.
I’m a middle school religion teacher at a small Catholic school, and my students have become people that I look up to. As expected at a middle school level, the students don’t know too much about their Faith. The thing that has stuck out to me, however, is how eager and ready these students are to learn about the teachings of Christ and how much He loves them. They are in awe when they hear about a miracle story, the faith of a saint, or how Christ gives us Himself in the form of a tiny host! They don’t try to over-complicate things or question what I say. Despite their background, whether they are faithful Catholics are not, whether their families practice the Faith at home or not, whether they are even Catholic in name or not, these students get it!
I realized that the simplicity of young children and their doubtless minds is what I needed. I had been struggling for a long time with spending time in prayer because I always felt like my prayer wasn’t good enough. I was always so distracted and was thinking of other things. My mindset towards spending time in prayer started to become, “What’s the point? Why spend time praying if all you’re going to do is wander in your own mind?” But what these children have taught me is that I need to pray for a more simple reason than that. I need to approach our Lord with a childlike heart. This means readily accepting Him into my life and being in awe of how good He is, just as my students do. What it comes down to is that I need to pray simply because God is good—not because I am.
St. Therese of Lisieux put it beautifully when she said: “To remain a child before God means to recognize our nothingness, to expect everything from God. It is not to become discouraged over our failings, for children fall often…” To have a childlike heart means to recognize your imperfections and bring them to the Lord, not to be discouraged by them. Distractions in prayer are going to happen. We’re all weak. We’re all human. We’re all easily distracted. No one gets more easily distracted than a child. But no one loves more purely than they do either. Rather than focusing on having perfect prayer, let’s focus on having perfect love. God will pick up where we leave off. Spending time with Him is good, not because we’re good, but because He is. It’s as simple as that.
If you are reading this right now and have experienced discouragement from the flaws of your prayer life, I encourage you to go back to having the simplicity of a child. Don’t overthink how good or not good your prayer is. Think of what Jesus said to St. Teresa of Avila: “I would create the universe again just to hear you say you love me.” Next time you’re distracted in prayer, have the heart of a child and tell him that you love Him. Spend time in prayer not because you’re good, but because God is.