A recent LDS Living article named Janice Kapp Perry’s song “A Child’s Prayer” as number one in the “100 Greatest LDS Songs of All Time.”
Although Perry has written more than 1,300 songs, she did not start writing music until she was almost 40 years old. Before then, she had a different passion.
“I was such a sports enthusiast,” Perry said. “I was almost 40 before I started getting more serious sports injuries and my husband asked if there was something a little safer that could give me fulfillment.”
While she was recovering from a broken ankle, Perry’s bishop asked her to write a roadshow with original music. She loved writing the music for that show and has been composing since.
“I just kind of have two halves to my life: sports and then music,” she said. “I was a pitcher for a women’s city softball league. I played basketball, racquetball and volleyball. That was just a big part of my life, but I switched right over. Everyone retires from sports at some point.”
Sports were Perry’s first love, but she made a name for herself by composing music. Perry wrote “A Child’s Prayer” while awaiting an answer to a prayer. She said she wanted to know Heavenly Father was there and that he was listening.
Erin Hallstrom, the associate publisher of LDS Living, explained that the selection process took some time. After a selection committee narrowed down the songs, the public was polled to pick a favorite.
“‘A Child’s Prayer’ was a clear winner,” Hallstrom said. “It didn’t surprise me, but I thought there were a couple of other songs that would come close.”
Perry speculates that this song is her most popular because it relates to each individual.
“The only thing that I can figure out is that every single person in their life has days when they want to sing, ‘Heavenly Father, are you really there?'” Perry said. “I also felt like it was very important to answer the question in the song and say, ‘Pray. He is there. Speak. He is listening. You are His child. His love now surrounds you.”
Danielle Jennings, a student from Utah Valley University, stated that she thinks “A Child’s Prayer” is so popular because it has the ability to touch the heart of anyone who has ever offered a prayer. She explained that it’s Heavenly Father answering the prayer that makes it so touching.
“My mom sang that to us when we were little,” Jennings said. “My sister still calls me when she’s having a bad day and asks me to sing it to her, and she’s 26. It’s kind of like our song.”
Perry is a firm believer that singing about something helps one understand it. Perry mentioned that a large number of songs in LDS Living’s top 100 are Primary songs.
“I just think that no one should ever be too old or too cool to love the Primary songs,” Perry said. “We say that to the youth wherever we go. ‘Stick with those Primary songs. There’s the gospel, simple and direct.'”