Each month, I try to look at the hymn I’m working on in a new way. A new perspective.
“A Child’s Prayer” is a beautifully simple hymn. It’s also one of the most popular children’s hymns that we have. Nearly everyone knows it by heart. I’ve sung it many times since I was a kid. I’ve had the imagery of a parent kneeling next to their child as the child prays and the parent encourages them.
So when this hymn was chosen, I felt like it would be a month where I just do a pretty rendition of it and move on. It’s so simple and well known that I didn’t think there was anything new to learn or personal insight to gain. Otherwise, I would have discovered it by now.
I was wrong. I was so, so wrong.
As many of you know, I injured my left index finger a few months ago. I have no idea how it happened, or if it even really was an injury or not. A cyst began growing on the inside of the base of the finger, right where it hits the fretboard when playing.
It was incredibly painful. My hand became weak and I started losing coordination. I couldn’t play at all. That’s the real reason why I decided to redesign the site and take a few months off from the hymns this past winter. I could barely play.
I went to the doctor about two months ago and they got rid of the cyst, but the finger was still unusable. Now the whole finger was in pain. I could barely even touch a string without it shooting pain.
While I was able to get away with not using that finger in last month’s arrangement of How Great Thou Art, I knew I couldn’t do that forever. And I was worried that it wouldn’t get better in time for this month. But I felt like I needed to try.
And then you picked this song.
And then I watched a video of Janice Kapp Perry giving the backstory of it.
And then I bawled like a baby.
This song is based on a song she wrote out of frustration… from losing the use of her left hand.
It wouldn’t work. She had difficulty controlling it. It was becoming weak and she was losing coordination.
This was early in her songwriting days and she was frustrated that she felt the desire to write, but couldn’t even use her left hand to play.
And that’s what this song really is about. It’s a plea out of frustration, wondering if Heavenly Father is really even there and listening to our prayers.
When she started writing for children, she repurposed it as a children’s song. While the reason for frustration is probably different for kids, the plea is still the same. “Heavenly Father, are you really there? Are you even listening?”
That was my new insight into the first verse.
Now the second verse …
It wasn’t originally written in the voice of a parent, encouraging their child to pray to Heavenly Father. Instead, it was the response verse.
It was coming from Heavenly Father.
When she submitted this song to the church, they asked her to change the second verse because they didn’t want to put words in Heavenly Father’s mouth. I get that. Totally makes sense to me. I would have done the same thing, especially since it’s still so beautiful with that change.
But take a moment and think about how this song changes when you replace “He” with “I”.
“Pray, I am here.”
“Speak, I am listening.”
It was a powerful moment for me when I first did that. This song became personal. Deeply personal.
And that’s what I tried to do with this arrangement. Keep it simple, but make it personal. Instead of having it be two conversations where the first verse was the child speaking to Heavenly Father and the second verse was the parent speaking to the child, I wanted to make it feel more like one conversation just between the child and Heavenly Father. That’s why it fluctuates in tempo and dynamics so much. I’m thinking of the words this child is saying and how they might be saying it, and how Heavenly Father would respond.
Since the first verse is the child, it’s very simple and stays on the higher notes. The second verse, being Heavenly Father, is all down low with as many bass notes as I could play. Too me, that’s how the spirit feels. Bass. Lots and lots of bass. This is also why the only time bass notes are played in the first verse is when it talks about heaven feeling close around you when you pray.
The third verse then locks both of the voices in and you hear how beautifully intricate the melodies are.
Now that I’ve rambled on long enough about what Janice Kapp Perry said about how she wrote this song, just click here to go watch the video for yourself and listen to how she tells it.
Thank you, all of you, for picking this song. I needed it.
He is there. He is listening.
And BTW, my finger is feeling much, much better now. :)
Here are the lyrics so you can sing along in your head. I’ve taken the creative liberty and replaced the He’s and His’s to I’s and My’s in the second verse for the full effect.
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.
Heavenly Father, I remember now
Something that Jesus told disciples long ago:
“Suffer the children to come to me.”
Father, in prayer I’m coming now to thee.
Pray, I am here;
Speak, I am listening.
You are My child;
My love now surrounds you.
I hear your prayer;
I love the children.
Of such is the kingdom, the kingdom of heaven.
Katherene TaylorPosted at 10:42h, 02 May
stumbled upon you – thank you for the hymn – I felt the spirit – step by step – line by line – precept by precept – I work my way back – thank you
Ben HowingtonPosted at 11:03h, 02 May
That’s how I do it too. You’re on the right path.
Elisabeth huntPosted at 13:41h, 03 May
Beautiful thank you so much
Tiffany NelsonPosted at 10:41h, 05 May
I am so happy I just discovered this. A Child’s Prayer is absolute perfection. I love what you’re doing here.
Brady MelinePosted at 00:17h, 06 May
I have been waiting for this one! I love all your work so the wait was not that hard. Thank you so much for the journey you take us on each time you post. I hope that your finger continues to heal and you can continue to share your talent. On a personal note I love what you have done changing the words slightly on this song. I have sang it many many times lately to get me through procedures, chemo, heart testing and treatment and now radiation. It is my go to song to take me far from what is happening and the answer is always a resounding YES he is always there. Thank you.
Ben ShepherdPosted at 13:04h, 08 May
Thanks for the various versions of MOTABs. Especially the interactive version. No better way to learn guitar than playing awesome arrangements of hymns.
Elder ThibodeauxPosted at 18:37h, 20 July
I was glancing through Deseret Book last Year, looking for some classical/melodic music that would be Mission Approved when Mormon Guitar glanced my eye. I was intrigued By the songs. When we got to the car i put the CD in. I was immediately disappointed….. It wasn’t what i was looking for, but it turned out to be the greatest CD ive ever bought.
Sense then I have learned “I Hope They Call Me on a Mission” which i have been able to Preform at 2 Baptisms and Transfer Meeting.. I am currently Learning, “I know my Heavenly Father Loves Me.” which i have been able to practice with investigators utilizing my talents as we are able to do in this Mission.
The Arrangements have been fun to learn, and are incite fully helpful. I have only been playing Guitar for a few years but my Mission has allowed me to “Learn” rather than just Playing. I originally play drums, but my love for music is deep. I have been able to Play your Inspiring uplifting and Virtuous Music with those around me and has Motivated me to want to do the same. Bring a Positive Message to young people. As i have played in many different “environments,” you should not have to compromise talent for unjustly decisions, In fact, i have felt the Spirit Stronger than ever as i have a pure mind and a clean Body.
I posted “Missionaries sing I hope they call on a mission.'” our rather a member did when i was first learning and using it as a dinner message. I hope you do not mind.
I am 28. serving as a full time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints, In the Arizona Gilbert Mission. i go home in Dec. and look forward to more of you expressing your love for the savior through Music:)
Judith Cheryl CampbellPosted at 20:46h, 22 August
I love it is so beautiful and the words really ring out like a child is singing it to Father,
NataliPosted at 21:11h, 08 October
Is there an instructional video? I really love this song.
Marlin PaynePosted at 23:09h, 17 January
Do you have the Tab for this that i can download?
Ben HowingtonPosted at 11:30h, 18 January
At the bottom right corner of the interactive tab, you’ll see a gear icon. Click that and it will open the settings panel. At the bottom of that should be a button that says “Print Notation”. It will then open your printer’s print dialogue, which usually gives you an option to save as a PDF. Hope that helps.
Dan PeckPosted at 19:08h, 02 December
Beautiful! Just beautiful Ben. As someone who struggles with depression playing guitar has been an outlet for me. Playing hymns is one of the most uplifting things for me and this website makes it easier to learn your beautiful interpretations of hymns. Thank you.
Ben HowingtonPosted at 10:18h, 03 December
Thanks so much Dan. It’s an outlet for me as well.
Tanner BradenPosted at 14:46h, 23 February
I can’t thank you enough for putting so much time and effort into making such beautiful music AND making it possible for someone like me to learn it! I used your “Families Can Be Together Forever” arrangement to honor my brother who passed away ten years ago today:
Please know that the spirit of your music has touched my life and I will continue to use it to touch the lives of others! (always giving you credit of course 😉)
Ben HowingtonPosted at 11:16h, 06 March
Tanner, thank you so much for sharing this. You play with such emotion. It’s wonderful and such a touching tribute to your brother. Thank you for your kind words. I hope you don’t mind, but I shared your post on the Mormon Guitar Facebook page as well so more people can hear your playing. It was beautiful. May God bless you and your family. -Ben
Ben AndersonPosted at 18:38h, 18 April
I love this song! Amazing!
LGPosted at 19:04h, 07 May
Thanks for doing this, this hymn has touched my soul when I really needed it.
I have a question about the Tabs, I bought my first guitar recently and I am trying to play this song because I think it’s perfect.
How do I play the third note on the third measure that’s says to play Low E open if I have the capo on? The video of you playing starts right after this. Maybe I’m missing something. Thanks brother.
Ben HowingtonPosted at 13:44h, 27 May
Thanks for the kind words, Leo! That’s actually a high E, so you can just play it open without fretting it. Imagine you aren’t using a capo when looking at the fret numbers. So while the song uses a capo, the TAB is written as if it doesn’t. Does that make sense?
Isaac SPosted at 18:32h, 27 January
I have searched and SEARCHED for a better guitar-tab teaching system and I have not found a better site except maybe Fender’s learning site. This is a beautifully done version, website, and it helped me feel the spirit so thanks!
CharliePosted at 20:10h, 04 March
How can I get the tabs for A CHILDS PRAYER? Also, I wanted to purchase your albums on iTunes and couldn’t find them
robby wyattPosted at 14:10h, 28 March
So awesome. Thank yous for sharing and for the tab, im going to learn these to play to my kids.
AE CostaPosted at 23:57h, 09 November
Have you ever thought of doing that intro that goes “Night time, quiet time…”? that adds a whole new dimension to it. just a thought.