Growing up, what was your experience with prayer?
This was a question asked at a recent Bible study I attended. Sitting at a table with eight other women, we went around our table, each woman sharing how prayer did or did not play a role in her family as a child.
As I shared my story of the very important part prayer played, I realized how blessed I was. Prayer was a very significant part of my home life. We prayed before each meal. Those prayers were not memorized or short “Thank you for our food” kind of prayers. Each family member took their turn in praying for a meal and the prayers were spontaneous – from the heart prayers. At bedtime we all gathered in our living room, knelt down by the couch or a chair and our Dad would lead us in a prayer. Any time I was not feeling well or had a problem at school, Dad’s solution was prayer. We did go to see a doctor when sick, but prayer always came first.
One memorized prayer
Being the youngest in the family, my first prayer at mealtime was a memorized prayer.
God is good, God is great!
And we thank Him for our food! Amen
At mealtime I would pray my simple prayer first, then another member of my family would say an “adult” prayer. Shortly after I turned five, my Dad decided I no longer needed to pray that childish prayer, but could just take my turn with the rest of the family praying at mealtime. However, he did not explain that to me. We sat down to eat and Dad called on my oldest sister to say the prayer. She prayed and everyone began eating. After a few minutes Mom noticed I was not eating and wanted to know what was wrong. “I didn’t get to pray” was my response. How could I eat my meal without thanking God for it? After Dad explained that I did not have to personally pray for the meal before I could eat and that going forward I could take my turn and pray a “real” prayer rather than the memorized one, I was content.
My Dad was my hero!
As a child, he was my hero! I thought he could walk on water and I wanted to be just like him when I grew up. He not only taught me the importance of prayer, but he gave me a love for God’s Word. My earliest memories are of Dad, after a hard day’s work, sitting at the kitchen table reading the Bible. Along with prayer, reading and studying the Bible was a high priority with him. He taught me how to use a Bible dictionary, a concordance and commentaries.
Then my hero was gone!
When I turned 14 my father made a 180 degree turn in his life. He deserted my mother, my sister and me and turned his back on all he had taught me. Refusing to pay any child support and showing no affection for me, he broke my heart. My hero died. As I entered the world of teenagers and then a young adult, one of my greatest desires was to regain a close relationship with my Dad. But sadly, it never happened. He remained very critical of me and everything I did. Every visit I had with him seemed to end up with me either crying or running out of his house in anger. How I longed for him to say he loved me or to give me a word of praise. But sadly, it never happened.
Then he was REALLY gone!
A few years ago my father died. I had long ago forgiven him for deserting me, had long ago forgiven him for his unkind treatment to me. So when he died, I thought all would be okay. Surprisingly, I found myself filled with the greatest anger I had every known. I felt hatred for him.
I struggled with this and prayed for deliverance from this pain. How could I feel more anger when he was dead than when he was alive? How could I feel hatred for him when I never felt that emotion when he was alive? After many months of soul-searching and prayer, I realized that as long as he was alive, I had hope that we would somehow become close again. That one day I would visit him and hear him say that he loved me or that he was proud of me. But now, that would never happen.
Anger and hatred finally gone!
After months of prayer, I’m grateful that the anger and hatred subsided in my heart. But all that was left was a sense of great loss and sadness that the memories of my father were not pleasant ones.
Thank you Dad!
But then, I attended the Bible study on prayer and listened to myself tell how my father taught me the importance of prayer. What a great gift he gave me! Although my memories of my dad when I was a teenager and later, an adult, were not pleasant ones, and I never received the love and approval from him that I so desired, I do owe him a great debt. He taught me one of the most important lessons a person can know – that God loves me and He hears me when I pray.
So – I have a great inheritance for which I am thankful. It’s my choice to cling to those memories and be grateful!