Bursting to Say: A Child Discovers the Voice of Prayer

June 22, 2012

As I have been writing resource material for Scripture Union family missions over the past weeks, at many turns I have come to writing prayers for children to use and launch off from.

As I’ve done this, the song ‘Bursting to Say’ has been very much on my mind.

Unless you lived in Melbourne and were hooked into Scripture Union children’s ministry or perhaps had kids yourself in the mid seventies, I doubt that you would have ever heard this song.

It’s local produce, by a talented bunch of friends who had been part of  SU missions teams together, and who streamed their creativity into some song writing and recording.

Their song  ‘Take a good look at the Bible’ endured in Children’s ministry and missional settings long after the group. So well-used was that song that it appeared on many a running sheet as simply ‘TAGL’.

I went to their live gig when I was about 6 or 7. Still, I have vivid memories – of the huge double bass (the first time I had ever seen one of those), of their hats and colourful clothes, of their energy and smiles, even of the long drawn out ‘riding on ruthlessly’ joke they told. They sold a little ‘45’ with about 5 songs on it. And ‘Bursting to Say’ was one of them.

It is the song that taught me to pray.

It gave me words, yes, but more than that, it gave voice to the mysterious feeling of wanting to pray; of  ‘bursting to say’ something. Being a very shy girl, I suddenly found that God was able to hear the words I couldn’t contain – but also those that I couldn’t summon the courage to say to anyone else.

As I now write these prayers for children to voice, I remember what a gift it was to discover I could pray – to find a prayer voice that had a bursting energy, a space where my compulsion to think and feel and worry and wonder had a purpose and a reception, and a choreography in which these inner realties might be turned towards and for the sake of others.

Many prophets are spruiking the demise of Christendom. I am heartily among them. I am ready to call it ‘all over red rover’ and to explore and articulate what the open space post-Christendom invites and provides. Post- Christendom is like a parting of the waves before the people who were slaves – secure but encumbered. Now they walk forward on bear ground ready for the wonders of God and who knows what?

Though we stand on the edge of a desert, we ask not ‘What have we lost?’ but ‘fromwhat have we been liberated?’ and even more  significantly ‘What are we to become?’

One thing we have lost – and which we ought to fully and joyfully let go of – is the culture of prayer as duty. That prayer is required or forced or compelled.  Those who grew up in Christendom carry the mantle of ‘shoulds’ that is invisible and alien to the secular generations born since 1990.  We do well to lay that down ourselves and to avoid superimposing it  on dialogue with those who don’t already have it.

The post-Christendom child bears no expectation that they ought to pray.  Rather they are more likely  to be unaware that prayer is a possibility. And yet, they may have been praying all their short lives in the breaths and sighs and chuckles and longings for God.

The invitation to sound their voice – their inner voice, their vexed, votive and vindicated voice – in prayer, is no less than a gift to our children.

As we invite children to pray, it is not just the words that we are giving voice to but also the feeling; the mystery of spirit-to-spirit, deep calling to deep, which we affirm.

To acknowledge the desire and need for prayer honours both the Imago Dei – that we are made to be in relationship with God, and also the our brokenness – our desire to pray always a little constrained, a little unfulfilled betrays that we do not know trulythe love and community with God reconciled in all its fullness yet.

So we discover what we may all become. Children; bursting with more than a human life can yet hold or speak or understand, spilling over the edges in prayer and becoming people of faith and possibility, open to the future, open to God.

Bursting to Say

‘The others won’t notice that I’ve gone away

Just think I’d like to pray

Jesus I’ve had such a happening day

There are some things that I’m bursting to say

Thank you for being alive

It’s great I can talk to you

No fancy words

I’m very ashamed of what I said to Johnny

I’m sorry I know that you heard

You know that new boy at our school today

I don’t think he has any fiends

All day I thought I should tell him my name

I was too scared but I did in the end

I wish that my birthday would come but I know

I’ll have to wait for the day

Bless all my family and best friends as well

And all the rest who are further away

(Trawled from the deep recesses of my memory – a little incomplete)

Wordsby Ross Langmead


  1. It’s a great picture of the reality, seriousness and potency of a child’s experience of prayer. Langmead and the Friends made it vivid through an unmannered, naturalistic style. I can still pluck that song out of dusty guitar strings and fond memory.

    Would you like to insert the missing words above?

    The first refrain ended: Jesus I find I fill up my mind with things that I’ve just got to say.

    The middle stanza normally had friends instead of fiends, and went into the refrain: Thank you for being alive. It’s great I can talk to you, no fancy words. I’m very ashamed of what I said to Johnny. I’m sorry. I know that you heard.

    The third refrain: Thank you for being alive. It’s great I can talk to you, no fancy words. Thank you again. Bye, Lord. Amen. Amen. Amen.

  2. Thanks for the missing lines – you’ve done very well!
    I went to the guitar as well for this one…
    and that unmannered style is still Langmead today.
    When I taught at Whitley last semester his class on the floor above us could often be heard singing something folksy…he totally gets away with it!

  3. A life giving post Beth. Children + a voice + a God who hears and cares. Thankyou.

  4. […] is only part of the article- read it all  via Bursting to Say: A Child Discovers the Voice of Prayer « multivocality. Cancel […]

  5. Where can I find the music, mp3 or guitar chords, please?

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