Dearest Gehrig and Eliana,
Good afternoon, sweethearts. Do you miss your Grandma Vicki yet? She has only been gone about 30 hours now but she misses you already, as do I. She had glowing reports for me on your progress; eating habits, pooping habits, sleeping habits and how she is certain you will both be the most intelligent, beautiful people on the planet some day. I told her, heck, I think you are that now, even if you can only focus on things 12” away. Still, your Grandma Vicki will always be concerned with your welfare, but knows she can’t spend every waking moment by your side. That’s where prayer comes in.
When I was about 3 years old my mother, your great grandmother Ann (or as your mother used to call her when she was 3, “Gramma Nana”) taught me and my sister, Sandy (your great Aunt Sandra Kay Smith Evans), a prayer to say every night before we went to sleep. It went like this:
I prathe Lord my sowell takeep
Fishadi foureye wake
I prathe Lord my sowell to steak
Now before you get the impression your great grandmother was some mystic from an obscure Middle Eastern nomadic tribe or specialized in foreign languages from outer Mongolia, you must understand 3-year olds hear and recite phonetically. And sometimes, they don’t get it exactly right. Actually, it was years before I really understood what I was praying. From the last phrase I said each night, I figured it had something to do with steak, which I really liked, even at that young age. As I finished the prayer, then, the last image in my mind was always of that thick, juicy charred meat my father always cooked to perfection on the grill and would cut into little mouth watering, bite-sized pieces for me. But, I had it wrong. It had nothing to do with steak. The real prayer went like this:
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.
When I got older and thought about those words and what they meant, it always seemed a little dark for a young person to be thinking about death every night right before they went to sleep. Maybe that was why I was always afraid of the dark until I was in my early teens. That and the fact I used to insist on watching creepy horror movies until past my bedtime. Then consider my hyperactive imagination. The result would sometimes be the scariest of dreams, which, invariably, had me running for my life from some grotesque monster or faceless grim reaper. Yuk!
Culturally, I suppose the prayer made some sense. Back in the 1940’s the infant mortality rate was 10 times what it is today and praying that one’s soul would be spared if they unexpectedly expired in the night probably made some sense.
Theologically, I suppose the prayer was sound because many young children in the Protestant faith (except for the Lutherans and the Episcopalians) were not Baptized in infancy and that decision was left to the discretion of the young person, sometimes as late as their teens or beyond. This prayer acted as a substitute in that regard, I suppose, until that day eternal forgiveness came….a kind of backdoor protection plan.
The prayer was always followed by the “God Blesses”. I was taught to always say, “God Bless Mommy and God Bless Daddy and God Bless Sandy and help Juddy (my mother’s awful nickname for ‘her angel’) be a good boy, Amen”. Perhaps the last part was a fervent desire on my mother’s part to slow her little boy down because I could get into more trouble than you can imagine in the blink of an eye. But that’s a story for another time. What I am getting to, I guess, is the Sixth Pearl.
Underestimate the Power of Prayer
Prayer is a gift from God. He gave us this gift to encourage us to talk to Him and to listen to Him. Prayer is powerful. Prayer works. Jesus told us when we are down and out, to lift up our voices in prayer and promised that God, the Father, would hear and respond. Now God’s answer to our prayers isn’t always “Yes”. Sometimes, God says “No”, just like your parents do occasionally when you ask them for things (candy before bedtime, your own cell phone, the keys to the car). It may not seem like it now, but your parents really do know what is best for you and so does God….even more so. Just like you have to trust your parents sometimes even though you can’t understand why they are doing or acting a certain way, this is the way it is with God. God asks us to trust Him and, in return, promises He will provide for our every need. That happens through the miracle of prayer.
So if you are down and out sometime or feeling really low or if you think the world is unfair and things look hopeless, hit your knees. Offer up a prayer to God and ask for His help. He has promised to never leave you or forsake you. It is then you will experience the real power of prayer.
Pretty heavy for two month old babies, I know. Hopefully you will read this to yourselves one day when you need it the most. But I promise you, as your mom reads this to you here in March, 2007, she finished it with a little prayer of her own, thanking God for you two beautiful, healthy, happy and perfect human beings and thanking Him for the love you give her and the love God gives her through you.
I will write you again before I come up to see you in April. Until then and always, I love you both, bunches and bunches.