Sunday, March 6, 2011

the work of prayer

One of several good books that I'm reading right now is Kate Braestrup's Beginner's Grace: Bringing Prayer to Life.
Kate is a chaplain for the Maine Warden Service and is also author to another good book, Here If You Need Me: A True Story.
The book offers many traditional prayers as well as some that she wrote herself.  I was touched by one of her stories about a childhood friend's dad who always said a blessing over his daughter before she left the house (a "threshold prayer"). 

He used one of my favorites from Numbers 6:24--

May the Lord bless and keep you
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you
and be gracious to you.
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you
and give you peace.

Kate offered one that she wrote with which to bless her family:
May love and strength be in your hands
May love and courage be in your heart
May love and wisdom be in your mind
May God go with you and work through you
today and in all of your days. (p. 62)

I would love to offer blessings over my children instead of the frantic reminders to get shoes and HURRY OR YOU WILL BE LATE!  I count it a success if we all leave moderately dressed and without tears, hopefully with a quick kiss and "love you."  My stress level in the morning dissipates only as I'm in my car driving away.  Fortunately, Braestrup could also relate to the frustations many mothers face:

"Incidentally, I can't claim to have been the rare and saintly person possessed of the endless patience, tolerance, and attention to detail that motherhood demands.  Motherhood could demand until it was blue in the face.  I was an impatient, disorganized, restless, and resentful mother at least half the time...It's a lot of hard, boring work, and the intense emotional connection I felt to my children too often promted me to feel overwhelmed and guilty rather than affectionate and maternal.  A threshold prayer would have 'worked' the way the mealtime grace and the bedtime prayers do:  by allowing reality to rise and be acknowledged.  I don't mean the reality of the backward overalls, the irritation, and the striped socks.  I mean the real reality, the truth about who each of us was and what it meant to be lving our lives together." (p. 61)

I want to incorporate spiritual practices into the life of our family, and I want them to develop naturally, but it is hard work.  It is difficut even for us, two ordained ministers with two seminary degrees and 21 years of combined ministry experience to regularly practice spiritual disciplines within our family.  You know what they say about ministers' kids, too...

Our 4-year-old often resorts to screaming "NO, I don't want to pray!" when we begin a mealtime blessing.  Our kids were the only two talking during a prayer at a birthday party this weekend and at church this morning. 

On the other hand, our 2-year-old offered to do the blessing the other day, and I'm sure God smiled with us as she seriously said, "ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ.  Amen."  She is the one to remind us, with our cheeks stuffed with food, that we forgot to pray, and to ask daily for us to pray for a young friend who's fighting cancer.  Maybe she'll be our inspiration.

For you, my friends, is another favorite blessing from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals--

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you:  wherever he may send you;
may he guide you through the wilderness: protect you through the storm;
may he bring you home rejoicing: at the wonders he has shown you;
may he bring you home rejoicing: once again into our doors.

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