"Oh?" And "Hmm" were Daddy's first responses. I showed him the little booklet of prepared prayers. There were the usual mealtime prayers everyone knew:
God is great, God is good,
Let us thank Him for our food.
And then there were other prayers for bedtime. Until that little book, I'd never thought of praying at night before bed. Daddy looked through the book and showed me one, "What about this one." Suddenly I was gripped with an odd thought. If I needed to read the prayer, how could I close my eyes to pray? Well, besides the fact that I couldn't read all the words yet.
"Yeah, that one!" And handing the book back to Daddy I said, "You read it"
Daddy grunted uncomfortably, "This is your prayer, you should say it."
"What does it say?" I asked. And as Daddy read the rhyming verse, I had another odd thought: this prayer doesn't really match what I think. "No....I don't like that one. Can't I just say what I want? Do prayers have to be from the book?", I asked.
Long pause. Daddy's eyes got a little moist, I could tell. "Sure" He said, "you say whatever you want. I think God listens to all prayers."
And then suddenly, I ruined it. Yep. I got the giggles. And Daddy lost his patience. "I think you're too silly to pray," and he kissed my forehead, patting my head as he turned to leave the room.
It was a long time before I thought about praying again. At least, in a serious way. We said 'Grace' over our meals sometimes, but otherwise prayer was rarely mentioned or discussed. Not until I was much, much older. Not until after we started going to Church and Daddy started going with us. Not until then did prayers became a little more common place around our house.
Although I'm sure I sat through many, many lessons about prayer after that, I don't think I took it too seriously until I was in my early teens. Sure, I had prayed and received answers before that. The embers of my faith were fanned into a tender flame through prayer. But it took years to learn not just how to pray, but what to ask for. The scriptures remind us to 'ask not amiss', and I learned that asking the right questions was important. I learned, after weeks of begging the Lord for miracles, that neither I nor He could interfere with the agency of others. Over the trials and tears of life, I learned that giving thanks for those trials and challenges endowed me with the ability to see the good in them. I learned that when I pleaded with the Lord to deliver me from sorrow, His promise was often not deliverance but instead it was His constant companionship. "I will be right beside you, all the way." was the constant reminder as life situations changed. I have learned that prayer is so much more than a child's poem to be recited day after day, night after night. My prayers are the sacred words of my heart on wing directly to the heart of my Heavenly Father. No worldly noise can interfere. Over and over again, prayer has been the gentle hand that opens my eyes to the beauty in the world around me.
Abide with me; 'tis eventide,
and lone will be the night
If I cannot commune with thee
nor find in thee my light.
(Abide With Me; 'Tis Eventide, Hymns, No. 165, text by M. Lowrie Hofford)
I am still learning and practicing the art of prayer. A few months after Robert passed away, I realized that because of the change in our morning routine of praying together before I said my morning prayers, and also due to the "widow's fog", I had neglected those morning prayers. A return to that routine, even though the prayers themselves were anything but routine, and the fog began to lift. It is a constant learning process, I think. And He listens to all of it. Sometimes the answers are immediate, sometimes they are not. But prayerful moments always leave me filled with peace.
Bright and happy mornings, gratitude filled days, sorrowful sunsets and sleepless nights, I have been able to express the desires of my heart to my Heavenly Father and He has lifted me up through all of it. I can share whatever I feel, He loves me anyway. From the morning planning meeting as I begin the day, to the evening return and report, He fills me with peace. Through prayer I am reminded that I am loved with an Infinite Love.
He answers privately,
Reaches my reaching
In my Gethsemane,
Savior and Friend.
Gentle the peace He finds
For my beseeching.
Constant He is and Kind,
Love without end.
(Where Can I Turn For Peace, Hymns, No. 129, text by Emma Lou Thayne)
In time I not only heard my dad pray, but as his own faith flame grew, I saw that he too, understood the power of prayer. Now, as I look back at my first nervous, attempted prayer filled with uncontrollable giggles and I realize that Daddy's words were more true than he knew at the time, "You say whatever you want...God listens to all prayers."
Daddies know everything.