Prayer

I was taught to pray at a very young age. They were simple prayers. Prayers that rhymed so they were easy for a child to learn.

Before meals, we held hands and recited, “God is great, God is good. Let us thank Him for our food.”  Simple and to the point. This was the only grace we ever said in our house. Even when my brother and I had reached adulthood, we continued to use this prayer when we would share meals as a family.

At bedtime, either my mother or father would come into my room and listen to my prayer of “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.” This is also a simple prayer, though a bit dark and gruesome. Why should we be asking a child to think about dying in her sleep right before she nods off?  Though it might explain my lifelong preoccupation with death.

Prayers were still said in public schools at the start of the day when I attended. There was also a Bible verse and the Gideons came around once a year passing out little New Testaments. I don’t know what any of the non-Christian students did with their little New Testaments. Of course, when I was in elementary school I didn’t pay much attention to what someone’s religious beliefs were. All these years later, I still don’t care what someone’s religious beliefs are.

I started attending Catholic school in 6th grade. We weren’t Catholic, but my parents had been told that I was bored and unchallenged in public school and if they could afford to send me to a private school, it would be much better for me. So I took a test and was accepted to a private Catholic school.

Not only was a prayer said over the PA system at the start of the day, every class began with a prayer, usually “Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

This was a new prayer for me. Mary didn’t get her own prayer in the Methodist church I attended. She was more of a bit player in the theology I was taught in Sunday school. Not sure why as she seemed to have an important role, but that must have been one of the pesky things that bothered John Calvin and Martin Luther enough to make them decide Catholicism wasn’t for them and that they should start their own church. Of course, they ended up not agreeing with each other and went their separate ways and started rival churches. Religion seems to bring out the divisiveness in people.

At some point, my night time prayer switched to the Lord’s prayer. I think this probably happened in my early teens. After reciting the Hail Mary prayer 5 or 6 times a day with its closing line making me think about death each time I said it, I just couldn’t bring myself to think about possibly dying in my sleep right before I nodded off.

It did feel a little weird saying the Lord’s prayer late at night. The line about “Give us this day our daily bread” always felt like this should be a morning prayer. I would always pause on that line wondering if maybe I should change it to “Give us tomorrow our daily bread,” but I never did. It seemed a bit sacrilegious to tinker with it though there are two versions in the Bible, the more familiar Sermon on the Mount version from Matthew and a truncated version in Luke.

I was never one to use prayer as a means of bargaining with God. I always thought it rather odd that someone would offer allegiance or swear to change one’s ways if only God would intercede and get that person through whatever crisis was occurring.  I would ask God to watch over those I loved and I would ask for patience and compassion and tolerance in getting through my days.

I always prayed at least once a day. I always felt hopeful when I prayed.  Not so long ago, during a particularly dark point I would pray several times a day.  My prayers became pleas. Pleas that were drenched in tears. I was sobbing and begging God for help. No help came. Hope is now elusive.

I don’t pray much these days, though there are times when I sob uncontrollably. Maybe one day I’ll pray again, though I fear my prayers will always be stained with tears.

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34 thoughts on “Prayer

  1. I grew up going to a Catholic school from K-Grade 8. My mom is Catholic, but my Dad was protestant but we went to church every Sunday..without Dad. I used to pray every night as a child. Due to the Nuns teaching us and the strictness of the school, I guess I thought I was a bad girl if I didn’t. I also used to say the rosary a night or two…sometimes fell asleep with it in my hands. Now, I am not a practicing Catholic, but I still think there is a ‘God’. My kids range in beliefs (2 were baptized Catholic, my youngest Christened in Salvation Army. We’re tolerant if nothing else) We said prayers with the kids every night. Made up ones that began “God Bless..” and went from asking God to bless relatives, family, friends and ended with “and all the sick children in the hospitals” The kids got so used to them, that they couldn’t go to sleep with out us coming in and saying them with them. Now they’re older, but I think our early installation of ‘prayer is important’ has stuck with them..at least I hope so. Sorry to be so long winded. I still pray for guidance, help with being a good parent, etc. I hope you can find some peace with prayer. It may seem silly or of no use in those desperate times, but I always found it to be reassuring during dark days.

    • Prayer works for many people. It gives them comfort. It used to give me comfort, but no longer does. Much like Mr. Hotspur, when someone tells me they are praying for me, I always say thank you. And thank you, Kayjai, for taking the time to share your thoughts with me.

  2. I also went to Catholic school, run by French-Canadian nuns. I learned all my prayers in French, so for quite a while I thought God only spoke French. I’m not very religious now, but I have to admit, when I pray to my mother-in-law to intercede, I always seem to get my wish. I always knew my mother-in-law loved me, but man… is she good!

  3. I often think back to things I prayed for early in my life and am happy they weren’t answered, as I would not be where I am today if they had been. I suppose I view prayers as a line of credit, only taking advantage of them when the purchase I wish to make is larger than what I can pull off in its entirety at the moment.

    • That is an interesting perspective, HE. It almost sounds like you use prayers as a way to boost your confidence when taking on a new project or when dealing with a difficult situation, but I suspect you have a deep well of strength within you.

  4. When people tell me they have prayed for me, I always thank them, because of what it represents – one person caring for another. I have been alone, and I have had tears, and I have wished for things, but I haven’t ever thought anyone would come along and grant my request. Music gives me solace and peace of mind, though. So in a way, music is my god.

  5. God does answer prayer, but often not in the way we expect – and He is always with us whether we sense it or not. Keep praying.

    • I have to agree with Bongo. Praying for what we want is not always what God feels is best for us. God never promised that life would be easy. We are here a very short time and should be more concerned with eternity. Sometimes God is trying to teach us something through hardships. We all want to be loved and humans will alway fail at that but God will not. Praying is from the heart and having faith that God will do what is best. Oh, and then stop and listen.

  6. Not particularly religious, nor do I have strong feelings on god.
    I get hope from those around me, and from the little things that are there even on the bad days…

    Also, pretty sure my comment misses the point.
    Sigh. (is there a prayer for that?)

  7. This post makes me sad. No pushing the “like” button here.
    Many times people think they have to pray a formatted prayer. The Lord’s prayer was just an outline. I believe God just wants us to “talk” to Him. As a friend talks with a friend. That’s how I pray anyways. I don’t always get the answer I want….but He always answers. And most times what a good friend does is listen. I need to be a better listener!

    Please don’t give up, and tears are okay.

  8. I believe the true power of prayer is that it helps the person praying feel a bit more connected to something greater than him/herself. There’s real value in that.

  9. My heart is with you. I no longer “pray” – I’ve also grown fustrated, and now just outright look up and talk to God. ( I prob’ly look like a crazy lady talking to herself ). I am sure of 2 things. 1 – God does listen and answers. 2 – this does NOT mean he answers in the way we would hope.

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  11. I grew up with the “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep” prayer on a heart-shaped picture that hung on my wall. The little girl in the one I had – had blonde hair and blue eyes like me and it used to FREAK ME OUT… (I had forgotten all about it) I’ve recently seen the same prayer and they’ve changed it…but, I can’t remember what too – just not so ominous…

  12. I really liked this post. I agree with some of your readers. My understanding is that our Heavenly Father wants to hear from His children. He loves us very much, listens and answers but in ways we’re not always aware of. Our understanding is not His understanding and our sense of time is also not His. He knows us better than we know ourselves. I’ve had the same experience where I increased my prayers because I was in distress but felt nothing back in return. I have faith that our prayers were heard, but it is a bit disappointing, isn’t it? I guess that’s where faith comes in? I know it’s the right thing to do but sometimes it’s hard. : )

    • Ahh, faith, that is a subject for another post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, it’s nice to know someone else has felt a bit disappointed and I’m glad your faith has held steady. Thanks for stopping by.

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