SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
The simple prayer of a child informs, inspires, and is a perfect Sunday School Lesson.
One version of the story goes that “a great Jewish teacher from the 1700s was leading a prayer service. A simple shepherd boy, who could barely read, stood outside the synagogue for a bit, and then, drawn by the beautiful sounds of the voices, he went inside.
He was so moved by what he heard that he wanted to pray, too, but he didn’t know the words to the prayers.
So instead, he offered what he did know. He began to recite the letters of the alphabet.
He said, “Oh God, I don’t know the words of the prayers; I only know all these letters. Please, God, take these letters and arrange them into the right order to make the right words.” – As remembered by Pastor Carol Williams-Young
Several renditions of this story appeared online. Consistent throughout them is the sincere and fervent desire of a child to pray in love to God.
The versions also reveal a childlike trust and faith believing God knew the order of the letters and could make them into the right order, into the right words, even if he did not know how.
This story reminds me of another story that shows that simple prayer works as does what my friend calls her “childlike faith” in God.
An upsetting situation developed where the actions of a family member left her grand stranded. My friend wanted to rise above the situation, not cause a family rift and refrain from saying something that would harm them.
At bedtime, she simply said, “God, I know you know this situation. I don’t have to repeat it to you. I need your help and know you can help me. It’s in your hands. I love you. Good night.”
Anxiety aside, trusting Him, she fell fast asleep.
With God’s help, she was able to help her granddaughter and salvage a relationship she cared about.
Continuing with the thoughts about simple prayer from the heart, my thoughts turn to a blog entitled, My Secret Jewish Prayer by Leah Moore.
Leah starts by telling us how she loved the story of the child praying with the alphabet as a child and how it has stuck with her.
When young, she was at home in the synagogue yet she was more captivated by Jewish traditions and the beautiful melodies at service. She wasn’t as comfortable with prayer.
What she did do at important times from a child’s perspective is develop the habit of repeating a simple blessing made over wine on the sabbath which brought her comfort.
Fast forward many years later, she is holding her baby at a doctor’s office awaiting serious news on his condition.
Finding it difficult to be positive and not be in fear, she writes, “… standing there in that moment, I felt very small. Before I knew it, I heard myself humming–and then the words came out, this blessing – “Barukh ata Adonai Eloheniu melekh ha’olam borei p’ri ha” – One English interpretation is, “We praise You, Eternal God, Sovereign of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.”
“I knew I would be okay. And I smiled to myself. Here it is again. I know, like the young child who cannot form sentences yet, that my message is getting across.”
Today there are many situations, places, and people to pray about that weigh heavily on our hearts.
People have said that sometimes the weight and scope of the issues cause fear or appear so overwhelming that they don’t know where to begin in prayer.
The message of these stories inspires us.
It might be that the love in our hearts, a child-like faith, and complete trust in God can be a prayer heard even when we don’t have the “right words” in the “right order.”
As my friend says, God already knows.
While there are ways to pray more effectively, the hymn, “What a Friend I Have in Jesus” encourages us to pray no matter the circumstances.
“O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!”
A conclusion in another version of the child’s alphabet prayer story goes like this . . .
A pastor says, after hearing the young boy’s prayer, that he was sure he just heard the finest sermon he could possibly hear that day.
In this case, may this be a helpful Sunday School Lesson that inspires.