"What He ordains for us each moment is what is most holy, best, and most divine for us." Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Firm Foundation

We bowed our heads, closed our eyes, folded our hands and sang: God our Father, God our Father, we give thanks, we give thanks, for our many blessings, for our many blessings, Amen. Amen. What warranted this outburst of song was my 4-year-old nephew singing the blessing before we ate our lunch at Chick-fil-a last week. Or "Chick-a-lay," as he calls it. It was probably the longest moment he sat still during the entire hour or so we were there, for as soon as the last note of the "Amen" stopped resounding, he immediately scoffed down a chicken nugget and a waffle fry and headed to the play area.

Childhood prayers -- they are the foundation on which our present prayer life rests. Somewhere in our history, most of us were taught to pray. Maybe it was from a grandmother as we watched her rock back and forth in her rocking chair with her Bible open in her lap. Maybe it was from a Sunday School teacher who made prayers so simple or a pastor who used large words in long monologues. Or maybe like me, from my Daddy kneeling beside me at my bed. Everyone has a story, even if that story is not being able to remember.

Many of us who learned to pray as children memorized prayers. For me personally, it went like this: Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. God bless ... and I would begin to name off everybody I knew. Mommy, Daddy, Chip, Thomas, Louis, Muh, and Gra, Mea and Bernie... and the list would go on.

As I continued to grow and attend worship services, the Lord's Prayer was added to my repertoire. I'm sure many of the words were mumbled at first and I certainly didn't understand every thing I was saying, but it made me feel like a part of the group. I became a part of the community. I belonged.

Sure, memorized prayers can become rote. They can become routinely uttered in a mindless act. But they can also give us something on which to hang in times of pain, struggle, and grief. When words cannot be formed nor thoughts composed, a memorized prayer can say much. Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.

But as we move beyond our early teachings to discover a more personal prayer life and more "intelligent" utterings, we must not forget or minimize those lessons we learned while young. Lessons of faith, of trust, of simplicity. And so once again I found myself laying in bed last night with these words on my lips and a deep sense of gratitude in my heart: Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray Thee, Lord, my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray Thee, Lord, my soul to take. God bless... And somewhere in the blessing, I drifted off to sleep grateful for such a firm foundation.

Just an ordinary moment...


Elizabeth said...

Thank you, Nancy for sharing such simple yet meaningful moments in your life. I have found in times of great stress, the Lord's Prayer is constantly repeating itself in my thoughts. It seems to sustain me, somehow. Love, Liz

Henninger Family said...

Is it amazing the prayers of little children. My 6 year old niece and 9 year old nephew pray diligently for the baby my husband and I are expecting to arrive in June. They pray so hard because of the little one we lost (30 weeks pregnant) in January...

~Kimberly (Kirkland) Henninger