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). 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 Fathers and three Hail Marys 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.
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.