THE VARIETY of personality and experience makes awareness of God’s presence unique to each of us. But we are all so slow to understand the magnificence of the invitation to be wholly open to God. God is already present within us, and as in any relationship, it is up to us to recognise and give it space for further understanding to blossom.
Providing children with quiet times for stillness can help them develop their own ideas and deepen their relationship with God. God is already dwelling within, and it is this presence that many children may unconsciously be aware of in their wonder and awe of the world around them. It is within this same understanding that we as adults are invited to ‘become as little children.
Prayer is not always done with words. Silent communication with nature and therefore with God is just as much prayer as ‘saying prayers’
One way of supporting stillness and silence within children and deepening their connection with God, is to practice being truly present. We cannot see beauty or have a better understanding of the world unless we notice what is immediately around us. Our thoughts of past and future events can cause anxieties, disengaging us from actually noticing what is around and in the present moment.
Children lead busy and stimulating lives. Their wants and needs are immediate and yesterday and tomorrow seem far away. Young children are more readily ‘in the moment’. As children get older, thoughts and anxieties can begin to distract them from the present moment. This can be seen
particularly in children of exam age or those experiencing emotional difficulties. They can readily dwell on past or future worries.
We need to encourage children to spend a few moments in silence to appreciate what is going on around them: to let them notice the leaves falling off the trees, the shape and colour of flowers or the raindrops on the window panes. Nature, as it prompts wonder with its smells, colours and sounds helps children sense the presence of God. In this way children can come to understand the meaning of God being present in everything – and learn to be grateful..
By supporting children to give time each day for stillness and silence in prayer, they will be encouraged in the habit of opening to God’s indwelling love. Over time they will become more accepting, not only of themselves, but of everything and everyone around them, more loving in the way that Christ loves us.
If we can support children’s growth and understanding of the Divine mystery through nurturing their spiritual life, then their relationships, with God, with themselves and with others, will touch the wider society around them.
Our relationships are so important. People may not remember what we said, or what we did, but they never forget how we made them feel. 13/2/13
Peter Knott SJ