Helping Children Grow
In Their Love for Jesus
If We Merely Read About Jesus Calming the Sea, We Miss the Boat
Christ’s Love and Words of Wisdom are Meant for Each One of Us Today
Scripture wasn’t written only to record how Christ interacted with people 2,000 years ago. Christ’s love and words of wisdom are meant for each one of us today. The sensory details in the guided prayer below allow children to imagine themselves with Christ in a Bible story and, ultimately, to experience his love for them.
The story below can easily be personalized, adapting details to fit your child’s life. The person who takes your child to see Jesus should be a trusted caregiver. You can insert your little one’s name and note something very lovable about him or her in the final tender meeting between your child and Christ.
There are two versions of the prayer. The first is for older children with longer attention spans (nine through twelve). I’ve shortened the second for the younger set (five through eight). The symbol indicates a pause. A very leisurely pace will allow the story to have greater emotional impact. Let your child speak with, or simply be with Jesus as long as it seems appropriate at the end of the prayer.
Children know how to imagine. All we need to do is encourage them to “let your eyes close and imagine you’re part of the story.”
Please see Spiritual Exercises for more on this time-honored practice of drawing closer to Christ through the gift of the imagination. Such prayer is part of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s gift to us and has been used through the centuries. The faithful of all denominations use it today.
Imaginative Scriptural Prayer for Nine through Twelve-Year-Olds
Let’s imagine you are sitting cross-legged on the soft grass of a hillside. The loud excited voices of men and women all mix together above you. You look up, up, up at all the grown-ups standing tall and close on every side of you. The bright sun behind one woman’s head makes it impossible to see her face, and you imagine her with different emotions. For a moment, she seems a little annoyed with you, and suddenly you are very glad your dad is with you. You grab his foot, all dusty in his sandals. He glances down and smiles. You feel safe.
You’d stand beside your dad, but you were doing that forever and got bored and tired. Besides that, you’re making a pile of dirt and grass beside you, forming a little hill. You rub the dark green blades of grass between your fingers. The blades are cool, smooth, and moist.
The voices above you get louder. “It’s Jesus!” someone says. “He’s coming!” says another.
You can’t take your eyes off Jesus. Does anyone else see how the light of the sun seems to reach out toward him and make his face shine?
Jesus’ voice sounds like a magical song. Most grown-ups go on and on about things you don’t understand or care about, but you don’t want this man’s voice to stop.
“Love your neighbor just like you love yourself,” Jesus is saying. Because these are his words, you want to do just that. The thought of pleasing Jesus and making him a friend makes you happy inside. You close your eyes to listen, and you begin to imagine being close to Jesus.
The next thing you know, your dad is waking you up. He seems very serious. “Child, the people around us are very hungry. Your mom packed a picnic of bread and fish. Do you want to share it with some of the others? It will be a long trip home and, if you share, you’ll get hungry later, I’m afraid.”
Jesus’ voice is still singing in your memory. “Love your neighbor just like you love yourself.” You want to share, but you remember how soft your mom’s bread is right in the middle, and your stomach growls. In spite of that, you nod to your dad. “Let’s share.” You hand your picnic basket to a man beside you who takes it to Jesus.
Jesus looks at your lunch, then up to the sky. Above His head, puffy white clouds seem to sparkle in the sunshine.
The next thing you know people are laughing, passing your bread and fish around to each other. And there is plenty for everyone. How can that be? Your mom’s bread never tasted so soft or so sweet. The fish is delicious. Your stomach feels warm and full.
Then all the talking and laughing stop suddenly. It’s so quiet that you can hear yourself take a big breath as Jesus walks straight toward you.
Jesus kneels beside you, looking at you with great love, like you are the only person in the world, at least the most important one. No one has ever looked at you quite that way, and you wish the moment would never end.
Jesus’ eyes glisten as he reaches for your hand. “Child, what you’ve done here today in giving away your food will be written down and remembered forever. I see you, and I know that my father in Heaven lives in your heart.”
Finally, Jesus hugs you. The warmth of his love spreads through your body like a wave. “Child, I love you more than words can say. I’ll always be with you because that’s where I want to be. Sometimes you won’t see me present. You can’t see your parent’s love, but you know it’s real. Just like that invisible love, I’ll be here. Right by your side.”
You feel your hand in Jesus’ warm hand. You know you can talk to Jesus about anything. Or maybe you’ll sit quietly with Jesus and enjoy his love for you.
Imaginative Scriptural Prayer for Five- through Eight-Year-Olds
Let’s imagine you’re sitting cross-legged on some soft grass. You look up, up, up at all the grown-ups standing close by you. You feel happy that your mom is with you, and you grab her foot. It’s all dusty in her sandals. Your mom smiles at you.
You’re making a little hill of dirt and grass beside you. You rub the dark green grass between your fingers. It’s cool and smooth
The grown-ups shout. “It’s Jesus!” a man says. “He’s coming!” says another.
You can’t stop looking at Jesus. The light of the sun makes his face shine!
Jesus’ voice sounds like a magical song. “Love people just as much as you love yourself.” Jesus is saying. You want to do that and make Jesus happy. You close your eyes to listen.
The next thing you know your mom’s waking you up. “The people around us are very hungry. I packed a picnic of bread and fish. Do you want to share? You may be hungry later.”
You remember what Jesus said: “Love people as much as you love yourself.” You remember how soft your mom’s bread is, and your stomach growls. “Yes, Mom. Let’s share.”
A man takes your picnic basket to Jesus. Jesus looks at your lunch, then says a prayer.
Soon people are laughing and eating. And there’s a lot of food for everyone. How did that happen?
Your stomach feels warm and full.
Then all the talking and laughing stops. It’s quiet as Jesus walks toward you. Jesus kneels beside you and looks at you with love. It’s like you’re the most important person in the world. Jesus’ eyes shine as he holds your hand. “Child, what you’ve done today will be written down, and people will talk about it forever. I know that God, my daddy in Heaven, lives in your heart.” Jesus hugs you and says, “I love you, Child. I’ll always be with you. Even when you can’t see me, I’m by your side.” You can talk to Jesus about anything, or just enjoy his hug.