|Celia Straus is an award-winning writer for print, film and video. A graduate
of Mary Washington Woman's College of the University of Virginia with an M.A. in
literature from Georgetown University, Celia previously taught English and Drama to high
school and college students. She lives in Washington, D.C. and Nantucket, MA where she
works from her home and, along with her husband, Richard, raises her daughters, Julia and
AN INTERVIEW WITH CELIA STRAUS
QUESTION: Why did you decide to begin writing prayers for your
ANSWER: I started writing prayers for
my daughter, Julia when she was twelve, going on thirteen, and began experiencing many of
the physical and emotional changes of young adolescence. Previously our communication was
continual and close, but now there were new barriers to overcome every time we talked. Now
I "didnt understand" and was hopelessly "out of it". Also, there
seemed to be no time to talk because both our lives were over-scheduled. So I started
composing an original prayer each night for her to pray before she went to sleep as a new
way of communicating that I understood what she was going through, and that I cared. The
prayers were a way I could stay connected to my daughter on a daily basis.
QUESTION: Why did you choose to write prayers instead of poetry or
ANSWER: I chose to write prayers in
words that my daughter might say for herself because I wanted to give her tool to
strengthen her faith in herself, her world and God. Prayer is a dialogue with God. The
process of prayer is in itself empowering, nourishing of the spirit. I didnt care if
she prayed the whole prayer or just a word or sentence. I often wrote the prayers in verse
form only because that made them easier to remember. What matters is that prayer, unlike
poetry, anecdotes or affirmative statements, assumes faith in something greater than
oneself. That something is God, and faith in God is what gives us, in this case, my
daughter, inner strength.
QUESTION: Prayers On My Pillow is an interesting concept. You have
written 150 prayers specifically for girls on the threshold of change. Why did you choose
to write prayers for girls, in particular, and why this age group?
ANSWER: I wrote these prayers for girls
because I had daughters. If I had had sons, I would have written prayers for boys. I also
wrote them for girls because I remembered how I felt as a teenage girl. I wrote prayers
for this age group because young adolescence is a time of vulnerability and change when
girls often need an extra dose of self-confidence, courage, faith in their own instincts
and values, humor and, of course, love.
QUESTION: Youre not a priest, a psychologist, a poet or a
scholar of religion. Did that make you nervous, writing a book of prayers for other people
abdominal workouts, be used for.
ANSWER: I originally wrote the prayers
for my daughters personal use, not for a book to be shared with the general public,
so I wasnt nervous since I didnt think anyone else would be reading them.
However, once we my daughters and I decided to share the prayers with
others, I made a commitment to understand the process I used to write the prayers and to
be able to talk about it. When I start worrying about what people may say, I remind myself
that, as a professional writer, I understand the difference between writing from the head
and writing from the heart. And that the first prayer and all the hundreds after it came
from the heart. As long as I stay focused on who they were written for and why,
theres no reason to feel nervous.
QUESTION: Why are these prayers unique, and how do they work?
ANSWER: The prayers are only unique in
that they were written for a unique person. This personal quality is contradictory because
it also makes each prayer universal. They work because they are based on a basic three
part concept: First, they acknowledge the existence of an Infinite Deity whom I call God.
Second, they look at life from the perspective of the girl who is praying. And, third,
they acknowledge and respect the girls inner self. Each prayer then connects and
integrates the three. The actual progression or process is simple and powerful. There is a
substitution of negative energy or thoughts with a positive act of faith in the three part
QUESTION: How have these prayers changed your relationship with your
ANSWER: The prayers have improved our
ability to communicate with each other as well as strengthened the bonds connecting us as
a family. Additionally, as the prayers enhance each daughters self-confidence, she
becomes more trusting and understanding of her relationship with others including me. On
the other hand, the prayers work magic, not miracles. We still argue and act out our
anxieties and fears. But the foundation of our relationship remains solid and lasting.
QUESTION: Teenage girls face so many day-to-day pressures, whether
it be to lose weight, to dress cool, to succeed in school, or to impress friends. How do
these prayers help teens cope with these burdens.
ANSWER: No matter what life issue a
prayer addresses a problem to be solved, an anticipated challenge, gratitude,
despair, loneliness or boredom, the process is the same. An experience or perception of
the teenage girl, along with her ensuing emotion is recognized and then put into the
context of Inner Self and God. Within that loving and secure framework, the prayers gently
remind the girl of what she is capable.
QUESTION: What changes in self-confidence, risk-taking, self-image
and relationships with family and friends, do these prayers facilitate?
ANSWER: The prayers enable the girl to
cope with change with more confidence in herself and in the power of God to sustain her.
The prayers encourage girls to look inward rather than outward for the strength to solve
their problems. Girls are then able to discover and tap their strong inner selves to cope
QUESTION: What are the theological underpinnings for these prayers?
ANSWER: The prayers are
nondenominational. They are based on the basic three part concept that acknowledges the
existence of an Absolute Being (God), the reality and perspective of life of the girl who
is praying and the strength of the girls inner self. The prayers are not
guilt-based. The word is never used. They present universal truths and values that the
girl can trust and rely on such as fearless faith in God, love, self-reliance,
self-empowerment and ethical behavior.
QUESTION: How spiritual are you, and what do you personally believe
about the power of prayer?
ANSWER: I consider myself spiritual,
but not particularly religious. Im Christian, brought up Episcopalian, and my
husband is Jewish. Like most interfaith couples who marry and have children, we dealt with
our religious differences by pretty much avoiding the topic entirely. However, I do
believe in an Infinite Being whom I call God, an afterlife, and the power of prayer.
Prayer works magic because it taps into our own spiritual energy that is as real and as
powerful as gravity and that exists in all of us whether we acknowledge it or not.
QUESTION: How do your daughters feel about your sharing their
personal prayers with the world?
ANSWER: An indication that the prayers
have made a positive difference for Julia and Emily is that both girls agreed to share
these prayers with others. Naturally, the book makes them nervous because, at this
vulnerable time in their lives, they have made themselves even more exposed to
questions and comments from adults and peers. Although it has been nearly four years since
I wrote the prayers, they still have personal resonance for both me and my daughers. At
the same time, all three of us believe the prayers can and should be made available to