Come Lord Jesus
Be our guest
And let thy gifts to us be
And then we would dig in. The fact that we could talk to God was pretty much forgotten about until the next day when we would all sit down to dinner again. There were rules and exceptions though. If we ate out, no prayer. If my dad were out of town on a business trip and my mom just made us kids macaroni and cheese or pancakes for dinner because it was easier, well there might not be a prayer then either.
I might be exaggerating a little. It’s not like there weren’t other times when we prayed.
At church, toward the end of the service, the pastor would get up and face the altar and intone formal prayers that always began with lofty phrases such as “Almighty and everlasting God, since…” and when he got to the part when he said, “Lord in your mercy” we could respond with “hear our prayer.” Finally he would wrap up with the line, “as you taught us to pray” and we as a congregation would launch into a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, always in the same sing-song voice as we said our Come Lord Jesus. When I started kindergarten at the Lutheran School, we also learned some short prayers written by Martin Luther that we would say during the weekly Wednesday chapel service or perhaps at the beginning of the school day.
And that was my whole understanding of what prayer was in a nutshell: formal words brought out and used at specific times, under the leadership of a parent, teacher or pastor. The concept of personal prayer was utterly foreign to me, and even today it is still difficult to discipline myself to do. Writing in my journal to God is the most natural way for me to pray.