Little one, will you teach me to pray?
I bow down before you, humble child,
and humbly acknowledge my need
to be taught by you, whom so many
see only the need to teach.
You have a gift, a treasure,
which we who are “mature”
so easily forget about, and lose—
because for us it becomes so easy
to stand tall, to keep aloof in fear,
and therefore to see our God
as so great and far away, inaccessible.
But if only we could bend our knees
and lower our head and heart to you,
then we could hear from you your wisdom,
and let you, in your docile simplicity,
teach us how to be teachable for God,
docile to his slightest touch and gentle grace.
For you, dear child, show us
that God is not far away,
as if someone—an “expert” perhaps—
needed to throw a bridge for us,
in order for us to speak to him
and to feel his silent voice
echoing deep within the heart.
No, the Bridge is already there,
implanted in the depths of every heart;
and the thirst is there, the possibility,
of opening wide the doors of the soul
to receive the gift that gives us life
and to abandon ourselves, in childlike trust,
into the arms that welcome us.
Yes, little one, you are ready and receptive,
for you know already the deep truth,
and do not fret at it in the least:
that indeed, at every moment, all is gift.
And so you welcome unreservedly
that which can only come as a Gift:
the radiant light of the Gospel,
bringing us the experience of the Father’s love.
He who praised the little children knew this,
he who draw us all together,
in the sinews of his own childlike Heart;
he knew the wisdom of the little ones
and said that we must become as them
if we are to welcome to gift of the kingdom.
For he is the Bridge, who as a Child
lets us experience the tenderness of the Father,
and who takes up every little child
—and those who will become as children—
and educates them in beauty, goodness, and truth.
Yes, it is you, child, who understand
the words and deeds of this Child,
and who share in his relationship with God.
We may dismiss your prayer as immature, infantile,
and then we go to prayer and rack our heads
trying to figure out why things are so complicated
and why we can’t let down our defenses
and our feverish need to be enough, to perform,
simply resting in the Father’s loving arms.
Yes, it is the child who understands, and feels,
that every moment is not a burdensome task,
a heavy demand placed on our back,
but a gift, so pure and undeserved,
yet offered to us by our loving Father…
the gift of pure Love awakening love,
a Love seeking only our acceptance
and our trust-filled reciprocal gift,
the childlike act of letting ourselves
be cradled in the arms of Love.
It is the child who understands
the meaning of the little seed, buried in the earth,
which, as tiny as a speck, bears the kingdom’s mystery,
full and rich, and overflowing with beauty.
It is the child who knows the Shepherd’s voice,
so tender, so loving, sounding unceasingly,
calling each, uniquely, by name.
We think, perhaps, that we need to teach you,
and, sure, in certain things this is true.
But above all we need you to teach us.
And how can we teach you anything
unless we first listen to this lesson
that you have for us,
learning to speak, as a grown-up child,
to every child whom we want to help?
Above all, child, what you need is our tender love,
so that you may grow and blossom in this relationship
that you already bear as a seed in your heart…
this relationship with such a loving Father.
You need our reverent desire to understand you
and to shelter, with all that we are,
the sacred mystery entrusted to you by God.
Let us listen, then, and speak only from listening,
our head pressed up close to you, little one,
to hear the beating of your child’s heart…
and our head pressed up, simultaneously,
to the breast of the One who teaches us all,
and whose heartbeat fills all of creation.
Only then can we help, in some small way,
to bring these two hearts together, yours and his,
in childlike simplicity and surrender,
into a mature and enduring union of love.
For there is an interior Teacher,
who speaks—not from some inaccessible height,
pontificating to the little ones
whom he does not really know or understand—
but who speaks as a Little One,
a Child among children.
It is he who reveals to us
the unique gift of childhood,
and the gift of each unique child.
But we, with our complex reasoning,
argue about so many things
that we forget the simple truth
which shines from those eyes,
and from that tender smile…
that smile which is a child’s smile,
and is also the smile of Christ.