The Boy Who Refused To Pray
When we worship God, we honor Him and help others to want to love him better too.
Israel is six years old. He lives on the Island of Madagascar (mah-dah-GAHS-car), off the eastern coast of Africa. Israel’s family is Adventist, but there is no Adventist school where he lives. His family decided to send him to a school sponsored by another church rather than to public school.
Israel likes school; and he especially liked his teacher, a nice young woman with a soft voice and gentle manners. He was quick to raise his hand when the teacher asked a question or needed a volunteer. But when the children prayed, Israel remained quiet. He bowed his head with the other children, but when the teacher said a prayer to repeat, Israel did not join in.
Israel was a happy, obedient boy in every other way, so the teacher was surprised when he refused to pray with the other children. One day she asked him, “Israel, I’ve noticed that when the children bow their heads to pray, you do not repeat the prayer with them. Why is this?”
Israel answered simply, “at home we pray in a different way.”
“How is that?” the teacher asked.
“We don’t memorize a prayer and pray it every day,” he explained, “We tell Jesus what is in our hearts, just as we would talk to a friend.”
“Would you like to lead the children in their prayer tomorrow?” Israel’s teacher asked.
“Yes,” Israel smiled. “I would like that.”
“By the way,” the teacher added, “what church do you attend?”
“We are Seventh-Day Adventists.” Israel said.
The next day when it was time for prayer, the teacher asked Israel to lead the children in prayer. Everyone bowed their heads and folded their hands. Israel stood and prayed a simple prayer, “Lord Jesus thank you for our food. Please bless us all, Amen.”
Some of the children giggled, “Teacher,” one child said, “Israel did not cross himself.”
“And he did not add, ‘in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost’ either,” another boy pointed out.
Later the teacher quietly asked Israel why he had not led the children in the prayer that she had taught them. “I prayed the way we pray at home,” he said. “We say what we feel in our heart, not what we have memorized. And we don’t cross ourselves when we pray.”
“Oh,” the teacher said, surprised.
Trouble with tests
It was time for midyear exams. Israel’s teacher realized that Israel would have problems on the religious exam, during which the children were required to recite prayers that they had learned during the term. Her superior told her that if Israel refused to recite the prayers as required, he would receive a zero on his exam. But the teacher did not want to fail this sweet child. She decided to visit his parents. Perhaps they could help him learn the prayers.
Israel’s parents listened politely to their son’s teacher explain her concerns. They told her that Israel knew the prayers she had taught and could recite them for the exam, but those prayer meant nothing to him in his personal life, they were not the kind of prayers they prayed at home or at church.
Then Israel’s mother gave the teacher a book to read. “Perhaps this book will help you understand why we pray as we do,” she said. The teacher thanked her and took the book home, promising to read it.
As the teacher read the book, she began to understand what this boy and his family believed and why he prayed as he did. She discovered other truths that she had not heard before. Why did we not learn these things in our religious study, she wondered.
Several weeks later the teacher went to visit Israel’s parents again. “I have been reading the book you gave me,” she said, ”and I was wondering if you would answer some questions.” Israel’s mother smiled. The two studied for a long time, and before the teacher left, she asked Israel’s parents to pray for her. They promised to pray every day.
At the end of the school year, Israel’s teacher stopped teaching at the religious school. She stopped attending the church she had grown up in. Now she attends church with Israel’s family, all because one little boy refused to pray the way she had taught him.
Israel was right. If we are faithful in what we know is right, we too can make a difference in someone else’s life. Let’s ask Jesus to help us make a difference this week.