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The Prayer Diary

Children's Story
Sandy wasn't very good at prayer. Privately he thought it was probably a waste of time, although when things went really wrong he always found himself praying. He wasn't sure that God ever heard his prayers.

When he was small, Sandy's mum and dad had taught him to kneel down beside his bed, put his hands together, close his eyes and say a prayer which began, "Gentle Jesus, meek and mild," and which ended, "God bless mummy and daddy, and God bless me and make me a good boy." Now he was older, Sandy thought that early prayer was just sad. And if that was what prayer was about, he didn't want to know.

When he was eleven, Sandy started confirmation classes at church. They were quite good fun, because there were a lot of games and a video and everyone was about his own age. At the end of the first class, the leader lit a small candle and placed it in the middle of the table. She invited everyone to gaze at the candle, and open themselves to God.

Sandy wasn't quite sure what she meant, but along with all the others he stared at the candle anyway, and after a while he found his mind beginning to relax so that odd thoughts drifted in and drifted out. He found himself thinking about his granny who was so old there was always something wrong with her, and he asked God to bless her. He was quite sorry when the session came to an end and the candle was blown out.

The next week, the leader didn't bring a candle but a little pot of bubble mixture. She reminded them of the story of Noah and the great flood, and how after the flood God had put a rainbow in the sky as a sign that he would always be around. Then she showed them how every bubble she blew contained a rainbow, and asked them in their minds to attach any prayers they had to the bubbles. It was wonderful, especially when she said in a really quiet voice, "As the bubbles burst, know that your prayer is heard." For the first time, Sandy felt that maybe his prayers were heard by God. It felt so different to what he'd always thought of as prayer.

After that, the leader suggested they might like to keep a prayer diary. Sandy wasn't about to admit it to his friends, but he thought he might it give it a go. He didn't have any candles at home, but he did quite like joss sticks, and the Indian corner shop sold them. So Sandy lit some joss sticks, then lay on his bed and gazed at the ceiling and let his thoughts wander. When anybody slipped into his mind, he tried to think about them a little bit before letting his thoughts drift on. He wrote in his diary the date, the time, about the joss sticks, and the names of everyone who had slid into his thoughts.

As he continued with his diary, Sandy tried experimenting with prayer. One day, he went out and picked a flower and just sat and gazed at it, again allowing his thoughts to drift. He felt his heart fill with love and appreciation of the beauty of the flower, beauty which he'd never properly noticed before. Another time, he went for a walk and discovered that all by itself his mind was saying, "I love you, God, help my unlove," in rhythm with his footsteps.

He wrote it all down in his diary, and as well as writing down the names of people who popped into his mind, he began to write down random thoughts which occurred as well.

At the end of the confirmation course, the leader suggested that those who had kept prayer diaries should look back over them and see if they could discover a common thread running through. Sandy looked back over his diary, which he had been keeping for two months.

He didn't spot any common threads, but as he read, he had the weirdest feeling that there was a thought in his mind he couldn't quite reach. He shut the diary, lit a couple of joss sticks and lay on his bed. As his mind drifted, he thought, "When I grow up I'm going to work for Jesus." Then he sat up very quickly and blinked, for he had no idea how that thought had happened.

And then he realised. In those weeks of working at prayer, and developing different sorts of prayer, it had somehow or other become real. Suddenly it wasn't just him, Sandy, who was saying things to God. Now, God was saying things to him as well! Sandy felt very excited and rather scared. He wondered what God would ask him to do, and he knew that his life would never be the same again, for now he knew for himself that not only prayer but that God too was real.

After that, prayer became a wonderful experience for Sandy. Sometimes it was easy, sometimes it was difficult, but he found that whatever he did, he couldn't help praying. He gave his whole life into God's hands, and he always had a deep peace in the centre of his being. Things didn't always go right for him, but whatever happened the peace was there underneath it all, and Sandy never forgot that prayer was his lifeline to God.
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