ON THE POWER OF THE PRAYER OF CHILDREN
Once the Emperor Henry besieged a certain city for a considerable time. The inhabitants were unwilling to surrender; so he notified them that he would give orders to his soldiers to take the city by assault, and massacre all its inhabitants to a man, even the little children. Alarmed at this proclamation, and seeing no hope left of saving themselves except in moving the Emperor to compassion, the inhabitants of the city had recourse to the following means: They collected all the little children from six to ten years of age, and after having arrayed them in procession, they made them march before the Emperor, and throw themselves on their knees, strike their breasts, and cry aloud in pitiful accents: "Have pity on us, O Emperor! O Emperor, have pity on us!" This heart-rending scene affected the Emperor so much that he could not help weeping himself. He pardoned the inhabitants of the city, and raised the siege immediately.
If the prayer of a child is so powerful with man, it is far more so with God. The prayers of children will sometimes move God, when the prayers of others will not move Him.
We read in Holy Scripture that Agar was wandering in the sandy deserts of Arabia with her little boy, Ismael. She had with her a bottle of water for him to drink. There was no other water in the deserts. When the water in the bottle was finished, she put the little boy under one of the trees and went a great way off from him; for, she said, I will not see the boy die of thirst. Then she sat down and lifted up her voice, and began to cry for the poor dying boy. Then an angel of God called to Agar from Heaven, and said: "What art thou doing, Agar? fear not, for God hath heard the voice of the boy. Arise, take up the boy! ... And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water, and went and filled the bottle and gave the boy to drink." (Gen. 21:17-19). So God heard the voice, not of the mother, but of the child, and He gave them water to drink. So God hears the prayers of children.
There is a feeling common to all people that the prayer of children is all-powerful with God. We know this from the revelation of God Himself: "Out of the mouths of infants thou hast perfected praise." (Ps. 8:3).
There was a town called Bethulia. One day the church there was full of children. What was the matter? The soldiers were on their road to this town. They were coming to kill the people. The people knew that God hears the prayers of children; for they had read in the Holy Scriptures, "out of the mouths of infants come forth perfect praise of God." So they made all the children come into the church and bow their heads down to the ground, and pray for the people. God heard the prayers of the children. He made the cruel soldiers go away, and the people were saved by the prayers of the children.
Dear little child, if you have parents who do not lead a good life, God looks to you for their conversion. But what can you do? The good example of a child speaks to the heart of a parent. Then there is prayer will God turn a deaf ear to the prayer of a child praying for the conversion of its father or mother? No; the Hail Mary which you say every day for their conversion, the prayer you say for them each time you hear Mass, the Holy Communions you offer for them, the sighs of your heart, all rise up before God, and are not forgotten by Him; and the day will come when God will send down from Heaven the grace of conversion into the hearts of your parents.
During one of our missions, a certain child knelt down every night to say three Our Father's and three Hail Mary's for the conversion of his father. One night, toward the end of the mission, when the child was again kneeling down and praying, the father said: "Child, what are you doing there?" "Father," replied the child, "I am praying for your conversion." In this moment the father felt touched by the grace of God. Next day he went to church, made a good confession, and was reconciled with God. Thus it was by the prayer of this good child that God was moved to bestow the grace of conversion upon his father.
God often makes use of children to convert others. Louis Veuillot, editor of the L'Universe in Paris, gave the following account of his conversion: "I had been brought up," he said, "in ignorance of the truth, with no respect for religion, and hating the Catholic Church. I had a little child, which was wild, passionate, and stupid. I was cross and severe to this child. Sometimes my wife used to say to me: 'Wait a little, the child will be better when it makes its First Communion.' I did not believe it. However, the child began to go to catechism. From that time it became obedient, respectful, and affectionate. I thought I would go myself to hear the instructions on the catechism, which had made such a wonderful change in my child. I went, and I heard truths that I had never heard before. My feelings toward the child were changed. It was not so much love as respect I began to feel for the child. I was inferior to it. It was better and wiser than I was. The week for the First Communion was come. There were but five or six days remaining. One morning the child returned from Mass, and came into a room where I was alone. 'Father,' said the child, 'the day of my First Communion is coming. I cannot go to the altar without asking your blessing and forgiveness for all the faults I have committed and the pain I have often given you. Think well of my faults, and scold me for them all, that I may commit them no more. ''My child,' I answered, 'A father forgives every thing.' The child looked at me with tears in its eyes, and threw its arms round my neck. 'Father,' said the child again, 'I have something else to ask you.' I knew well my conscience told me what the child was going to ask; I was afraid and said: 'Go away now, you can ask me tomorrow.'
"The poor child did not know what to say, so it left me, and went sorrowfully into its own little room, where it had an altar with an image of the Blessed Virgin upon it. I felt sorry for what I had said; so I got up and walked softly on the tips of my feet to the room-door of my child. The door was a little open; I looked at the child; it was on its knees before the Blessed Virgin, praying with all its heart for its father. Truly, at that moment I knew what one must feel at the sight of an angel, I went back to my room, and leaned my head on my hands; I was ready to cry. I heard a slight sound, and raised my eyes my child was standing before me; on its face there was fear, with firmness and love. 'Father,' said the child, 'I cannot put off till tomorrow what I have to ask you I ask you, on the day of my First Communion, to come to the Holy Communion along with mamma and me.' I burst into tears, and threw my arms round the child's neck, and said: 'Yes, my child, yes, this very day you shall take me by the hand and lead me to your confessor, and say: "Here is father."' " So this child also obtained, by its prayer, the grace of conversion for its father.
You may ask why is it that the prayer of little children is so powerful with God? It is because they are innocent, and God willingly hears the prayer of an innocent heart. When our dear Saviour lived on earth, He embraced the little children; He laid His hands upon them, and He blessed them. He rebuked those who tried to prevent little children from being presented to Him, that He might bless them. He said: "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God." (Mark 10:14). Now children go to Jesus, if they pray to Jesus; and Jesus never lets them go away without having blessed them; that is to say, without having heard their prayers.