May 30, 1857

30 May 1857



I like to put little children to bed at night; not because I want them out of the way, oh, no! but because I like to take them in my lap, pull off

A woman holding an infant in her lap.

their shoes and stockings, kiss their white, dimpled feet, and put on the loose, white night robe, in which they look so charming, and so pure. But when they look up in my face, and ask, "Now, shall I say my prayers?" I always say No, because I do not believe in saying prayers; and when they use that expression it always seems to me, as if they wanted to hurry them over so as to have done with them; that's why I say No, don't say your prayers; don't mumble over a string of words as you would repeat "The house that Jack built," or Peter Piper Pipkin. That is not praying; your Father in heaven knows you are not in earnest; that you mean nothing by it. Suppose you were nearly starving, should you go to any person and dance and sing as you asked them for food? Of course not; they would think you were mocking; so does God, when you say your prayers, as you call it. He knows very well when you are in earnest; and He looks at that, not at the length of your prayer. A great many people pray, who never speak a word; did you know that? Suppose your heart is full of trouble, and you are in a crowded street, or car, or omnibus; must you wait,—wait it may be for hours, till you can get upon your knees, before your dumb prayer can go up to God for help? Oh, how blessed that we need not wait! Else, what would thousands of poor creatures do, who are driven to and from their tasks like beasts of the field, and like them drop wearily down, when the day is done. What would they do, my little ones, when tried, tempted and discouraged, if a sigh, or a tear, or an upturned eye were not in God's sight a prayer? Little children, such prayers as these go like swift-winged messengers to heaven, while the long—dull—meaningless prayer dies—where it was born—on the parrot lips.

Source Text:

Fanny Fern, "For the Children Who Read the New York Ledger," The New-York Ledger (30 May 1857): 4

To cite this project:

Fanny Fern, "For the Children Who Read the New York Ledger," Fanny Fern in The New York Ledger, Ed. Kevin McMullen (2018)