Prayers on My Pillow: Inspiration for Girls on the Threshold of Change

Prayers on My Pillow: Inspiration for Girls on the Threshold of Change

by Celia Straus
Prayers on My Pillow: Inspiration for Girls on the Threshold of Change

Prayers on My Pillow: Inspiration for Girls on the Threshold of Change

by Celia Straus



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Inspiration for Girls on the Threshold of Change

"Before I go to sleep each night
Before I turn off every light
Let me put away my fears
Let me brush away the tears"

The heartfelt prayers in this luminous volume were originally written for the comfort and inspiration of a twelve-year-old girl named Julia. The author of these prayers is Julia's mother, who wrote them because she was troubled that she and her daughter no longer talked as much as they used to. So each night, she left a verse on Julia's pillow. Julia shared them with her younger sister and with her friends, and the prayers moved outward in ever-widening circles.

Now everyone can enjoy and meditate upon these simple supplications, whose words, feelings, and perspective are those of a girl growing into womanhood. Nearly one hundred and fifty prayers encourage girls to look inward for the strength to heal hurts, calm fears, and reconcile with family and friends. They present the values of self-reliance and confidence, celebrating the gift of life and the unique pleasure and challenges of being a girl. Each prayer is a loving act of faith, and together they provide a safe and private space in which a girl can simply be and grow.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307757692
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/24/2010
Sold by: Random House
Format: eBook
Pages: 240
File size: 2 MB
Age Range: 12 Years

About the Author

Celia Straus is an award-winning writer for print, film and video.  Her awards include eight Cine Golden Eagles, six Tellys, three Ohio State Awards for Excellence in Children's Television and numerous other awards.  She is a graduate of Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia, and earned an M.A. in English literature from Georgetown University.  She has taught English and drama to high school and college students.  She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and two daughters.

Read an Excerpt


Why I Wrote the Prayers

Why the Prayers Have Meant So Much to Me, by Julia Straus

The Courage to Be Myself

Brave Beginnings

Looking in the Mirror

Confusion and Fear

Finding Beauty in My World

The Pain of Growing Up

Pressures in School


God's Love

Getting Along with Family and Friends

My Blessings

Asking for Help

Fearless Faith

Living in the Moment

Making a Difference

When I'm Alone

Prayers for My Self

Prayers on My Pillow was written for my older daughter, Julia. I
started writing the prayers in the fall of 1995, when, at age twelve,
Julia began experiencing many of the physical and emotional changes of
young adolescence. A brave, happy, independent, and outgoing girl was fast
becoming vulnerable, confused, and withdrawn right before my eyes. At the
same time, as a self-employed writer for television, I was carrying a
heavy workload. It seemed that, as the days went by, there was less and
less time to talk with Julia, and more and more need to do so.

There also seemed to be new barriers to overcome every time we did talk.
Suddenly my previously valued and much sought after opinions,
observations, witticisms, and advice were off-base, outdated, and boring.
Suddenly I wasn't listening properly, was hopelessly "out of it," or
"didn't understand." And Julia, who up until now had been forthcoming and
honest about what she was feeling, began responding to my inquiries with a
"whatever" or a silent shrug of the shoulders.

We'd had a tough summer. Julia had found few friends to hang out with at
the beach, so she had spent most of her time alone. Then she and I were in
a frightening car accident in which the car was totaled, though neither of
us was hurt. We both realized our mortality at the same moment, and the
realization stayed with us. I think we also both realized that our
relationship, built on communication that was continual and close, one
that had nurtured and supported Julia throughout her young life, was
changing. The connections between us were breaking down. Even more
important, the connections within Julia herself were breaking down.
Because of numerous factors including age, sex, society, school, and the
accelerated pace of life in the nineties, Julia's sense of self, her very
essence, was threatened.

As I think back, it was Julia who asked me to write the first prayer.
We're not a particularly religious family. I'm Christian, brought up
Episcopalian, and my husband is Jewish. Like many interfaith couples who
marry and have children, we dealt with our religious differences by pretty
much avoiding the topic entirely. Not going to church or synagogue.
Celebrations of Christmas and Passover focused on secular rituals and
family traditions, and observance of Easter, Yom Kippur, or Rosh Hashanah
was nonexistent.

I had taught Julia and her younger sister, Emily, one bedtime prayer--the
only one I ever prayed when I was a child. It's from a 1920 children's
book called TThe Bam Bam Clock, by J. P. McEvoy. It goes like this:

Bless me, God, the long night through,
And bless my mommy and daddy, too,
And everyone who needs Your care,
Make tomorrow bright and fair,
And thank You, God, I humbly pray,
For all You did for me today.

It did the job for ten years. But during that busy, tumultuous autumn,
when I was preoccupied with work and Julia's troubles were mounting, she
asked me to write her a new one. One that might help her go to sleep
instead of staying up until one or two in the morning worrying about . . .
well, everything.

And so I did. The next day I wrote a prayer, in verse. I'm not a scholar
of religion or a person "of the cloth." I believe in an Infinite Being
whom I call God, an afterlife, and the power of prayer. I'm not a poet. I
write television dramas, documentaries, and educational videos.
Occasionally, I've worked on a novel. But I do know the profound
difference between writing from the head and writing from the heart. This
first prayer and all the hundreds after it came from the heart. And that
night I put the first prayer on Julia's pillow.

Each day thereafter, whether we had had a chance to talk or not, I wrote a
prayer for her to pray before she went to bed. Sometimes we read them
together, sometimes she read them by herself, sometimes we talked about
them. And I learned how important they were to her when, one night when I
didn't write one, she asked me where her prayer was. I was careful to
write the prayers in the words and voice that she might have chosen for
herself. Some were tools to help her handle crises in her life; others
were written as celebrations of her victories. Some were meditations on
life cycles and the importance

of acting in faith and love; others were more lighthearted and emphasized
perspective and balance in order to get beyond the intense self-absorption
of her adolescence.

I wrote the prayers having been deeply impressed by Mary Pipher's
Reviving Ophelia and Peggy Orenstein's School Girls, books that
stressed the need for parents to maintain connections with daughters
during the early years of adolescence. I was also inspired by Larry
Dossey's book Healing Words: The Power of Prayer and the Practice of
Medicine, all of Max Freedom Long's books about Huna, especially Growing
into Light, Enid Hoffman's Huna, a Beginner's Guide, Thomas Moore's Care
of the Soul, and the writings of Reverend Sandra Mayo.

The prayers are nondenominational and are based on a very basic three-part
concept. First, they acknowledge the existence of an Infinite Deity or
Absolute Being, who is addressed as either God or Lord. Second, they look
at life from the perspective of the girl who is praying. And third, they
acknowledge and respect the girl's inner self, or soul. Each prayer then
connects and integrates the three. The process is simple and powerful. In
the three-part concept there is a replacement of negative feelings or
thoughts with a positive act of faith.

No matter what life issue a prayer addresses---a problem to be solved, an
anticipated challenge, gratitude, celebration, awareness of the beauty of
nature, despair, loneliness, boredom--the process is the same. An
experience or perception of a young teenage girl along with her ensuing
emotions is recognized and then put into the context of, or sandwiched
between, Inner Self and God.

Within that loving and secure framework, the prayers gently remind the
reader of what she is capable. They present truths and values she can
trust and rely on, such as fearless faith, love, self-reliance,
self-empowerment, and ethical behavior. Many also express the benefits of
courage, generosity, humor, creativity, and risk taking.

The prayers are not guilt-based. The word guilt is never used. Neither are
they requests for what most people pray for--world peace, good health,
better grades, career success, or material goods. The prayers are not
whiny or self-pitying. They encourage girls to look inward rather than
outward for the strength to solve their problems. As a result, they help
girls discover and tap their inner strengths to cope with changes.

The prayers are written in verse rather than prose, not because they are
poems, but simply because that makes them easier to remember. They are
practical, hands-on tools, like a makeup brush or a hammer, except they
are tools of the spirit. They are to be used as very private, very
personal, and very loving Acts of Faith. They work magic because they tap
into our own spiritual energy, which is as real and powerful as gravity
and exists in all of us whether we acknowledge it or not.

The prayers are loosely organized into sixteen sections or categories
addressing different reasons for girls to pray. There's a prayer on each
page because both Julia and I found that praying one new prayer each night
was more than enough to think about. Not all prayers will prove useful to
every reader. However, certain ones will strike an instant chord and
become favorites. And a few of those can become crucial for handling
day-to-day events.

Each prayer--or, for that matter, any word or combination of words within
each prayer--can be used as a mantra, affirmation, meditation, thought,
chant, song, or daily reminder, either expressed out loud or not. The
prayers are completely flexible. They can and should be copied out and
personalized by the girls who read them. They can and should be wadded up
into small squares and kept in a wallet, backpack, jewelry box, notebook,
diary, or locket. There is space in this book to write new prayers
tailored to meet the different and new needs of each reader.

I believe the prayers have made a positive difference for both Julia and
Emily. One indication is that both girls agreed to share these deeply
personal prayers with other girls. I would like to think that this
demonstration of their glorious inner strength and generosity of spirit
was enhanced by my efforts, but then I can hardly be objective about my
daughters. I am, however, deeply grateful for their existence and the
opportunity I have been given by God to write prayers for them--and you.

--Celia Straus

I surround myself with toys at night
Just like a little child,
And yet my dreams are different now
With yearnings to be wild.

I pray to keep these two selves safe
Each night before I sleep--
The child in me protected by
The grown-up I'll soon meet.

It's hard to close my eyes sometimes
When deepest needs collide,
The search for self continues strong--
It pulls me like the tide.

Put prayers on my pillow, please,
So I can tread the night
And wake up as the girl I am
To greet, with joy, the light.

Where can I run
When there's no homeplace left?
Where can I hide
When my parents "know best"?
Who can I turn to
When friends turn me down?
Who can I trust
When there's no one around?
What can I say
When the worst has been said?
What can I feel
When my feelings are dead?
How can I cry
When God's love is right here,
Telling me, "Love,
You have nothing to fear"?

Today I woke up empty,
My soul completely flown--
As if my self had lost its way,
My song had lost its tone.

Today I woke up numbed inside,
My feelings paralyzed--
As if my mind had given up
The light inside my eyes.

Today I woke dead-ended,
With no place else to go--
As if my life had come full stop
With nothing left to know.

Today I woke no little girl
But someone not yet here--
As if I'd lost the faith to grow
In God instead of fear.

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