“Pray your way through the day.” “Your host while you eat your toast!” “Walk with the King today and be a blessing!” Mornings were punctuated with these greeting and admonitions. “Don’t worry about anything, instead pray about everything, tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank Him for His answers.” Philippians 4:6 It was a plaque hanging in the kitchen. It was an appropriate place for a plaque because we spent so much time there. We cooked there, washed there, ate there, cried and chatted there. The kitchen was the central hub of our home. We did our homework at the table, Mom and I had an incalculable amount of tea and toast slathered in conversation there. It was our plotting and planning space – our comforting and reconciliation place. Woven into all those interactions were prayers. If you could imagine our apartment filled with sustained time lapse jump cuts illustrating every place we prayed – the entire space would be filled with overlapping images of mom alone, me alone, mom with me, mom with my brother, and mom with the both of us. We prayed about everything. Lost keys? There were thousands of earnest prayers for them. Bad dreams? There were prayers for that every night in both rooms. Homework trouble, prayers joined the tear-stained pages. Fear? Worry for the future? Terror? Pain? There were prayers for all of those. If something good happened; if we found something we had been looking for or received something we desperately needed or wanted, we would pray a prayer of thanks for those as well.
Prayer had no particular form, there was no specific stance or posture for our prayers. They were whispered under our breath, screamed at the heavens, cried out from the floor, spoken softly from our knees or at our bedsides, sighed at the kitchen table over tea, mumbled over our work, or groaned in agony because mom insisted that in times of need, when we didn’t have the words, “…God heard our groans” Genesis 16. It was comforting, the constant conversation with God. It kept me from feeling so lonely. Often, mom and I found ourselves holding hands praying earnestly for something or someone because, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” Matthew 18:20. Prayers were woven so tightly into the everyday fabric of our lives that I can’t remember a time that we weren’t praying for one thing or another. Hearing my mom praying as she puttered around the apartment, someone who didn’t know might think she was talking to herself. Well, she did that too, but I could always tell the difference. We both talked to ourselves, Mom would tell any overhearer gleefully that, “I never say anything I don’t want to hear!” She kept track, you know. She had years worth of journals in which she wrote her prayer requests. She would carefully date them and leave a spot to write when and how they were answered. For me, it was an early lesson in patience to see how some prayer requests were written in pen, years old, in handwriting that had long since changed over time and followed by a date. Sometimes these were followed by the same hand from the same era but sometimes as long as ten or twenty years later in different pen and penmanship.
Thinking about her now I realize that somewhere along the way, I’ve lost that habit. I don’t know when; I don’t know why but, it seems to me now to be a great loss. Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” There is truth to that. For a while a child may stray from the ways she was taught but, eventually, we return. Usually, the child sees the wisdom in something a long time after she was instructed to do it; often, after the world has shown how harsh it can be. I am thankful for my mother’s faith, she made me who I am, and there isn’t a day that goes by that there isn’t something in my life that mirrors the truths she impressed on me as a child.