Friday, July 17, 2009

Prayer -- where I started from

In my family the only prayer ever modeled for us was the trite recitation of the old Lutheran favorite when we sat down together at meals. We’d holler and jostle around the table, but when my father said, “Let’s pray,” suddenly we’d settle down and say in a sing-song cadence:

Come Lord Jesus
Be our guest
And let thy gifts to us be
blest
Amen

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.

3 comments:

  1. I AGREE!! I find it hard to remember that I can talk to God like I talk to my husband. I am teaching my son both ways it seems. We say "now I lay me down to sleep..." each night, but then we pray for individuals and talk to God for a little while.

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  2. I'm coming to understand that both formal and informal prayer have their place and value. Richard Foster in his book, Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home discusses at least 21 different types of prayer in three categories: inward/transformational, upward/intimacy and outward/ministry.

    The baby dedication class was valuable, especially because it reminded me once again to incorporate prayer into our bedtime routine. Not natural for me, so it's tough, but it happened at least once this week! So my Pookaloo will hopefully have better habits than I!

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  3. You are growing together, you in your prayer life with God and you and Pookaloo in your relationship with each other and God. This is precious in God's sight. Sleep well, sweet Pearl. God is watching over you and your family and smiling. ~ch

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