It’s dinnertime at the Erickson household. Lily, 4, reminds us all and we dive in, hands folded. We start with the prayer her mother (my daughter) prayed as a child: “God is great, God is good ....” Then we stumble bravely over their father’s childhood prayer: “Bless us, oh Lord, for these thy â€¨gifts ....” When Uncle Blair is there, we may add the prayer he was taught: “I Jesu navn går vi til bords å spise, drikke på ditt ord ....”
Then, broadly and loudly, for we are not shy — and this is where Jack, 2, feels most confident — we make rather untidy signs of the cross, raise our hands in the air, and with a sweeping flourish bring them together, proclaiming, “Amen!” It’s not a pretty prayer practice. But it is a joyful, whole-body experience for everyone. And it’s ours.
With short attention spans, curiosity stretching beyond the universe and boundless energy levels, children — from mere babes to questing preteens — have all the attributes needed for a robust prayer life: a sense of wonder unfettered by inhibitions.
Jack Erickson, 2 (left); his grandma Jane Oppermann; and his 4-year-old sister, Lily, enjoy mealtime prayer that’s a “whole-body experience.”
“I think all human beings are hardwired to be aware of something beyond self, but children haven’t been socialized to think that is not acceptable and possible,” said Mary E. Hess, associate professor of educational leadership at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn. “They have big questions and they’re willing to ask them. And each answer leads to another why.”
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