A young shepherd boy called Sabal grazed his flock of sheep atop the green mountains. Each day he would search for the patch where the grass was the greenest. Sabal would spend a lot of time grooming his sheep. He would comb their wooly hair and remove the lice from them. He would wash their feet and clean their faces of any dirt with a soft cloth. Sometimes he would rub oil over their horns to make them shine. He would tie colourful ribbons on their horns. Whenever he had money to spare he would buy anklets or little bells and tie them around the necks of sheep. Sabal loved to hear the tinkling sound when they walked. Sabal’s sheep were a happy lot for he loved them dearly. The sheep were his friends as well as family. He would hug them and talk to them and share all his fanciful thoughts with them.
One day while his sheep were grazing he sat under a tree and started day dreaming. He prayed to God saying, “Dear God, I wonder where you live and what you look like. How do you pass your time? What do you like to eat?” As the afternoon sun grew hotter the boy continued, “Dear God, if you come to meet me, I shall show you the greenest pastures. I shall feed you the freshest and the juiciest grass. I shall bathe you if your hair gets dirty. And, if you get lice in your hair, I shall pluck out the lice too. Oh! Please come to see me God. I shall get you the fresh water from the mountain spring to drink and shall fan you with these spruce leaves, if you lie down for a siesta in the afternoon …” The boy continued his innocent jabbering.
Meanwhile a priest happened to cross that way and stopped to listen to the boy. The priest asked, “What are you doing, young fellow?” The boy smiled dreamily and said, “I am praying.” The priest said, “Oh! Really! Tell me what you said in your prayer.” So the lad repeated his simple jabber to the priest. The priest frowned and said, “No! No! That is not the way to pray. God would have felt most insulted, by your talks about eating grass and removing lice. Tch! Tch! Let me teach you how to pray. Sit down, cross legged and join your hands. That’s right. Now repeat after me….” The priest went on to teach some mantras and the bewildered boy tried his best to follow the difficult, high sounding words, that sounded more like tongue twisters to him than prayers.
Later the priest went away and the boy returned home with his flock of sheep. That night God came to the priest in his dream. “Oh priest! You are supposed to be teaching people, how to connect with God.” “Yes, Lord!” replied the priest importantly.
“The shepherd boy offered me a beautiful prayer, from his innocent little heart. You started teaching him the correct oratory and grammar of prayer. You rather broke his connection with me. He was so immersed in my thoughts that he was not conscious of what he was saying. But at that time, he was one with me. I do not care for the words. I care only for the feelings and the emotions. The little boy knew more about prayer than you do!”