Heavenly Father, are you really there? And do you hear and answer every child’s prayer? Some say that heaven is far away, but I feel it close around me as I pray. – A Child’s Prayer
When I was a kid, my favorite primary song was A Child’s Prayer. I even sang it with my dad at my baptism! If you had asked me back then why it was my favorite, I probably would’ve said “I dunno, I just like it.”
I didn’t care much about church. Instead of trying to get stars on the sticker charts, I was much more interested in being the star, which made me a bit of a nuisance in primary.
But I knew God loved me.
We used to have this huge pine tree in our front yard. I would climb up to the very top, above all the rooftops! In the distance, I could see the city lights. I was the only kid in the whole neighborhood who could climb that high through the pine needles and rough bark, which made it the only place that was truly mine. I used to climb up there to watch the sunset, I loved the colors in the sky and watching the sun sink behind the Colorado mountains.
When I was up there, I felt so much love and so much joy. I felt full and warm. Whenever I was sad, I would climb up to the top and talk to God about what was going on. I always felt better afterwards. I’d climb down, ready to leave whatever made me sad behind and face the world again.
Still, my indifference towards church continued into high school. Church was more of a social thing that I did because I had to.
One day I got into a fight with my mom – again. The tension in my life had been growing as girls continually gossiped about me, boys said derisive remarks as I walked by, I was failing math class, and on top of it all there was proma (prom drama)! No one knew what I was going through. No one understood. It was more than my 16 year old self could handle.
So, I ran away from my problems. Literally. I ran to a creek a few miles from my house and collapsed into the flowing water. I didn’t know how to get through life. How could I live in a world where everyone hated me?
In my desperation, I started to tell God everything. I explained how I didn’t know what to do and I wasn’t strong enough to deal with it.
Then I started to feel love and peace, as the storm inside was calmed. Eventually, I was able to stand and make my way back home. Somehow, I got through that semester. Somehow, I became resistant to what was said about me. And somehow, miraculously, I passed that math class!
And yet, I was still “prone to leave the God I love.”
By the end of high school, I went into a full on rebellion. The commandments just felt like restraints people used to control me, and that was the last thing I wanted! I wanted to be free! I wanted to choose everything about myself without any opinions, judgements, or rules getting in my way. Gradually, I fell more and more from the church.
One night (well, technically morning), I came home after a party. I was exhausted, but I didn’t sleep. Instead, I sat on my bed and cried. I felt more alone and empty than ever before. But I couldn’t understand why.
I was what I had always wanted to be. I was the thin girl with the expensive little dress and high heels. I went to parties. I had a boyfriend. I lived by my own rules. I had everything I thought was going to make me happy, but I felt miserable. I lived a life of freedom, but I felt trapped. Years of confusion and helplessness came crashing down on me.
And for the first time in a long time, I prayed.
Heavenly Father, are you really there? And will you hear and answer this child’s prayer?
I didn’t know what I was praying for, all I knew was that I needed help. For hours, I pleaded with God to send help.
About a month later, help came.
God sent the right people at the right time – people He knew I’d pay attention to! – to be my loving, enthusiastic, righteous examples.
This led me to make the decision to change my life. I didn’t only want God as a last resort, I wanted Him in my life through it all, the good and the bad. I committed to read the scriptures every day. I actually listened in church. And after many talks with Heavenly Father, I visited my bishop to work through my repentance process.
I’ll never forget how it felt coming out of that office, like somehow it was easier to walk! I felt lighter, like heavy invisible chains had been lifted off me! Instead, they were replaced with some sort of soft, invisible hug.
For the first time in my life, Jesus Christ became real to me. He didn’t only exist in paintings and stories, He was my Savior. He knew everything I had gone through; He had been there for every step of the way.
A Child’s Prayer was no longer just a children’s song with a catchy tune, it was a declaration of truth, that Heavenly Father did hear and answer all of my prayers. Even when I was an annoying kid. Even when I was a moody teenager. Even when I was a rebellious sinner.
My conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ came because Heavenly Father never gave up on me. And take my word for it, He will never give up on you either.
Heavenly Father loves you! His life purpose is YOU! There is nothing He wants more than for you to come home to Him. He is always there for you.
So, talk to Him! He’s listening.