What my toddler daughter can teach us about contemplative prayer

She opens

her heart



the heavens

to shower graces

like rain.

Of course,

they always do.

How could God


such sweetness?

My daughter’s name is Celia, which means heavenly. She is truly a gift from God and a reminder of the gift that all children are. In the glory of her toddlerhood, I notice she naturally has a lot to teach us grownups about contemplative prayer.

When someone she loves walks into the room, she lights up in a natural praise song of pure joy “mamamamama, dadadadadada.” She is full of light and bliss, focused outside of herself on these people she loves. When I try to say “Hi Celia,” she’s not interested in talking about herself. She’s focused externally on the object of her delight, the source of all her blessings and fun: her family.

It occurred to me that in an organic way, she is basically practicing contemplative prayer, and she’s doing it in a far more beautiful way than we usually do as adults.

Thinking in concrete terms because of her age, Celia sees us, her family, as the source of all good in her life. When she sees us, she meditates on us, joyfully expecting good things from the people, who she’s received so much love, food, security, shelter, fun and connection from. When she focuses on us with that pure expressive glee, she is so totally filled with joy, trust and the expectancy of good things that she loses herself in that joy.

Naturally as her parents, we delight in her delight of us and shower her with as much love, affection and fun as possible, along with meeting her essential needs.

To me, that’s the essence of contemplative prayer! We should approach God (the true source of good in all of our lives) in such a way of joyful expectancy, delighting in Him and expecting Him to fill us with good things, which He WANTS to do. Rather than focusing on ourselves or what we want from Him, we ideally trust in the good that will flow from our delight in Him because Our Heavenly Father delights in us and wants to shower us with graces, even greater blessings than we can hope for or imagine.


As an adult when you approach God in prayer, are you filled with a joyful expectancy like a well-loved child? Are you full of peace, focused more on how excited you are to see Him than your own problems and concerns? What traumas have you experienced over the years that may cause you to hesitate in trusting the Lord today? Where are you at in the healing process of those traumas you’ve experienced? Do you think you need inner healing to help your faith become more innocent, childlike and trusting of good things to come?

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Of course! As heavenly as Celia truly is, she is also a toddler living on planet earth and doesn’t always get what she wants from her mom and dad. And believe me, she can throw a whopper of a fit directed squarely at the same mom and dad she joyfully expected good from a minute ago.

To me, that only makes her the better teacher of contemplative prayer.

When she’s mad at us, she lets it all out: the fullness of her rage, frustration, sadness and disappointment. She so fully trusts in our love that she is willing to authentically share how she really feels and what she really wants. And then when the storm of her emotions pass, she returns into that baseline state of joyful trust and peace, love and delight in us.

The reality is that no matter how trustingly we approach the throne of God, we don’t always get what we want from Him. The true sorrows of our lives are far more consequential the disappointment of a child not getting another cookie – the range of human emotion can be overwhelming, dark and last for a very long time.

_In this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world._

God judged it better to bring good from evil than suffer no evil exist.” – Saint Augustine

Sometimes, we’re flat-out mad at God for allowing bad things to happen. But as adults, do we allow ourselves space to express that full range of human emotion like our toddlers do? Or do we stifle the full range of our expression thinking we shouldn’t feel the way we do?

At times, we can judge ourselves harshly for our natural human feelings and try to rush ourselves through them. We can push them down or even pretend we don’t have them, subtly diminishing the authenticity of our relationship with God without even realizing it. We can feel like our emotions are too much for other people or even our Heavenly Father to deal with. We can decide we’re unworthy of God’s love, shaming ourselves for the problems we can’t help but endure.

In truth, God wants us to approach him with such joyful trust that we share the fullness of our praises and laments with him, including the uncomfortable feelings of anger, disappointment, fear, doubt and grief that are inevitable along the pathway of our spiritual journeys through life.

In our humanity, we need to be like a toddler and fully express all the emotions we experience from the sorrows of our own lives! I’m not advising that you necessarily  throw a toddler-sized tantrum, but God can handle adult-sized tantrums. In fact, I believe he’d prefer it over you making yourself sick, burdening yourself, holding back from him the truth of what you’re feeling or taking your feelings out on those around you.

The psalmists are great examples of people, who expressed the full range of human emotions to God through the ups and downs of life and eventually came back around into a state of pure-hearted joyful trust! If like the psalmists and toddlers, if you allow yourself to fully express yourself and persist in prayer for as long as it takes, I wholeheartedly believe you will come back into that space of joyful expectancy,  positivity and love like my little daughter so naturally does in the innocence of her childhood.

Copy of _In this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world._

Psalm 30 1-13

I praise you, LORD, for you raised me up
and did not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O LORD, my God,
I cried out to you for help and you healed me.
LORD, you brought my soul up from Sheol;
you let me live, from going down to the pit.

Sing praise to the LORD, you faithful;
give thanks to his holy memory.
For his anger lasts but a moment;
his favor a lifetime.
At dusk weeping comes for the night;
but at dawn there is rejoicing.

Complacent, I once said,
“I shall never be shaken.”
LORD, you showed me favor,
established for me mountains of virtue.
But when you hid your face
I was struck with terror.
To you, LORD, I cried out;
with the Lord I pleaded for mercy:
“What gain is there from my lifeblood,
from my going down to the grave?
Does dust give you thanks
or declare your faithfulness?
Hear, O LORD, have mercy on me;
LORD, be my helper.”

You changed my mourning into dancing;
you took off my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness.
So that my glory may praise you
and not be silent.
O LORD, my God,
forever will I give you thanks.

When life hits you hard, do you feel comfortable showing God the full range of your emotions, even the “ugly” ones you’d rather not have? Do you allow yourself space to grieve? Through persistence in prayer, do you eventually find your way back into a state of peace and joy in prayer like little Celia and David in the Psalm 30? Have you fully healed from trauma of your past or do you still have old emotions that need to be fully expressed? Do you believe it’s possible to heal and be restored to pure faith and trust in God like a little child?

No matter what you’ve been through and where you’re at on your spiritual journey, I pray this article helps you grow deeper in contemplation of what it means to have childlike faith, love and trust in God, your heavenly Father!! I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. God bless you!!

When’s the last time you felt that pure joy and inner peace of a child? Are you in need of inner healing to come back to that place of joyful trust in the Lord? What life event caused your trust in God to be shaken? How would you like to grow more childlike in your faith? Comment below, and I’ll be delighted to keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

Lord, thank you for giving us the freedom to fully express our hearts in the safety of prayer. As we journey through the joys and sorrows of our lives, give us the grace to persist in faith, growing ever closer to You through it all. Restore in our hearts the joyful trust and expectancy of the good we had in You as children because You are good and will our good in all things. Give us the grace of inner healing in any areas of trauma, which negatively impact our faith in you.  In Jesus name, we pray. Amen.

written by Nicky Gant for http://www.uniteinprayer.org 5/4/2020


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