I write this on the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. A simple question from my beloved little friend Eva almost a year ago has led me on a quest for a way to explain the profound concepts of Advocate, Redeemer, Savior and Mediator to a child. After much prayer, temple worship, and lots and lots of scripture searching, here is my response.
In a previous post, we told about Eva asking a question in Primary that Michelle followed up on at home, highlighting the value of bridging home and church for the sake of these children we both love. But the answer to this simple question from a child has profound significance.
Eva asked, “Why do we pray in the name of Jesus Christ anyway?” Has any child ever asked you this? How can you explain the concept of Christ being our advocate with the Father to a child? Here’s my attempt.
“Beloved child(ren), we pray to Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ because we are not worthy. If we were perfect, we could pray to Heavenly Father in our own name. But we all make mistakes — big and small — and “no unclean thing can enter” into God’s presence, not even for a moment, not even just to talk to Him in prayer. (1 Nephi 15:34) Only Jesus can do that, because He is clean. He is perfect. Jesus never made any bad choices, not even once.
“But Jesus knew we would make mistakes, so He paid for our sins in Gethsemane and on the cross. He agreed to be our Advocate with Heavenly Father. Advocate means someone who begs or pleads for someone else — asks really earnestly and hard. (see Doctrine & Covenants 45:3-5).
“At the Last Supper, just before He died, Jesus said, ‘No man cometh unto the Father but by me’ (John 14:6).
“And that, beloved child, is why we pray to Heavenly Father in Jesus’ name. It reminds us that we are too imperfect to talk to God on our own, but our perfect older brother Jesus pleads for us in front of our perfect Heavenly Father.”
Several memorable songs teach this truth as well; see the Children’s Songbook (CS) index under “Atonement,” including these personal favorites:
- “I Lived in Heaven” (CS 4)
- “He Sent His Son” (CS 34)
- “Help Us, O God, to Understand (CS 73)
- “Third Article of Faith” (set to music in CS 123)
Side note – I’m trying to learn the 23rd Psalm in Spanish. Instead of “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (verse 3, emphasis added), the Spanish translation reads “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for the love of his name (por amor de su nombre).” It doesn’t surprise me that in the end, it all comes down to love.
How have you helped a child understand why we pray in Jesus’ name? Comment below!