My bishop told an adorable story on Sunday about a little girl who was learning to pray. Being so enthusiastic about her newly acquired skill, she volunteered every chance she would get to say the family prayer. Most of her attempts seemed like a prattling of disjointed phrases, which irritated her grandfather. One night, he couldn’t take anymore and decided to put an end to it. He called out, “This is ridiculous. Her prayers don’t make any sense, and they don’t even hit the ceiling.” To that, the grandmother snapped right back, “They don’t have to hit the ceiling—God is sitting right next to her.”
When did we forget that God is our Heavenly Father? When did we lose our trust in Him? When did we decide our prayers had to travel some imaginary distance to reach a spiritual force that couldn’t care less about us? When did we decide the ceiling is a barrier blocking our prayers from reaching God? When did we grow up, or more accurately, when did we grow away from God?
What children know that we have forgotten
I serve each Sunday in the Primary program at church, which means I get to be with the children. I cherish every moment with them. There is a special spirit in Primary, one that embodies the pure love of God. They sing songs about Jesus Christ as if they walked with Him on Earth. They are actively involved in the scripture stories as if they were there, side by side, with the prophets of old. They cry when we learn about the crucifixion, and they become elated with joy when they learn that Christ overcame death and lives today. They ask to hear the stories over and over again. Their innocence is precious, their faith, pure, their desire to learn, insatiable—as though we are only reminding them of things they’ve already experienced themselves.
Children believe God is their Father in Heaven
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. Romans 8:16
One of our dearest little children in Primary, a five year old girl without a father in the home, shows the most excitement each week when learning stories from the Bible. She seems to know what comes next, no matter the story I tell. I feel like she has a direct line to God. She knows God loves her. There are times I cry in my heart for this little girl—her life is terribly hard, being raised by a single mom in an economically depressed area. But I am comforted in knowing that at such an early age, she knows that she is not alone.
This girl has a relationship with her Father in Heaven that I envy. She remembers His love for her far more often than I remember His love for me. While I pray and wonder why He “isn’t listening,” she trusts that He is—always. She is happy, despite her hardships. God has not magically changed her living situation. Instead, He walks the walk with her and makes her burden light. She would be justified to grumble, but her closeness to God reminds her she has something more important than temporal security—she has spiritual stock in eternity, an eternity that gives happiness now, while promising everlasting happiness later.
We can learn from a child’s perspective
Jesus said, Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come unto me; for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:14
Everyone should have a chance to see the faith of a child in action. If they did, their fears and doubts about God would melt away. Children treat their Father in Heaven with love and courtesy. They understand Him better than we do, as if they spend more time with Him, realizing His schedule, and empathizing with all that He has to do. They are more like partners with Him, and their faith makes them even more equal in purity to Him. Maybe that is why they have the enduring spirits that they have.
We can learn to love God again as a child does
There are various reasons why we, as adults, often lose that child-like perspective, but it need not remain lost. If we remember key phrases that will remind us of who Heavenly Father is, we can have the child-like joy in this life as well as the next.
Trust that he is your Father. I have family and friends that recite the Lord’s Prayer daily, but it seems this is the only time they refer to Him as their Father. They call Him by the name of God at all other times. Try calling Him Father more often, and you will feel a familial closeness that may have been missing in your life.
He will always love you and forgive you. Heavenly Father is a Father of pure goodness. Think of the feelings a small child has for her loving parents—a pure trust that binds them together. She would do anything for them because she knows they would never harm her or ask her to do something she couldn’t do. She also knows her parents love her unconditionally. If you can approach Heavenly Father with that same innocent love, you can feel his spirit more closely in your daily life. Having his spirit with you guarantees blessings that help you get through your most difficult trials.
You lived with Him before you were born—He wants you to return home. You have a relationship with Heavenly Father that began before we were born. You lived as a spirit with Him in heaven under his guidance and direction. He wanted the best for you then, and He continues to want that for you today.
He has a plan for you. Your life is a gift. Heavenly Father has a plan that involves your immortality and eternal life with Him. It involves overcoming the natural man as you rise to a higher level of existence. It involved coming to earth, receiving a body, and ultimately receiving a resurrected, perfect body in our celestial home.
He is next to you when you pray. Don’t ever think your prayers don’t make it past the ceiling. They are not ghostly messages that fly upward. Prayer is conversation with your eternal Father. It is the adversary’s plan to distance you from your Father. Do not be discouraged if you feel your prayers are not quickly answered, but rest assured that they will be, in His time and His way.
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. Romans 8:17
Know that you are a child of God, and therefore heir to the kingdom of heaven. Take solace in knowing you can become closer to Him in prayer, and that answers come in many ways. Sometimes, the best answer is the comfort of being wrapped in the arms of His love.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Matthew 5:1.
Make peace with your Father in Heaven and get to know His pure love again. Remember that you have always been His child and you will remain His child, no matter how old you become. Take comfort in the blessings that come from that knowledge, and you will find peace in this life and eternal joy in the worlds to come.
Nanette O'Neal loves the gospel and is very happy to share her testimony on LDS Blogs. She is a convert to the church and still feels the spirit burn strong within her heart. She graduated from Mason Gross School of the Arts with a degree in music education and has taught children and adults in the private and public sphere for over twenty years. Nanette continues to study the gospel and the art of writing. She writes weekly inspirational articles on her blog and is currently working on an LDS fantasy novel series, A Doorway Back to Forever. You can find her at NanetteONeal.blogspot.com. Nanette has a wonderful husband, talented son, and three beautiful dogs.