Long Days, Prayer, and The Comfort of Familiar Words

Days with my daughters are long in June. The sun rises early and is stubborn to set.

Last Thursday for instance, up with the sun, movies and pretend, children racing through the hall, toys like debris, everywhere, I pushed through a day thick with chaos, wanting for routine, messy fun splashing, the kind that bruises and exhausts and leaves puddles.

At day’s end, I limped to their room, patience long gone, yawning… I stood above their beds, racing through a story and blessing. As I turned to extricate myself from the room (and the day) London called out, “Don’t forget the prayer!”

The prayer.

Sigh.

I turned, sat on London’s bed and prayed the only words I could muster:

"Our Father Who is in Heaven…"

And like water from a faucet the words tumbled out.

My girls joined me and together we prayed for the kingdom and bread and deliverance. Our words echoed, bouncing between our tired hearts.

Saying that prayer was like slipping into sweats, comfortable and reassuring and right.

I didn’t grow up with memorized prayers. I couldn’t quote The Lord’s Prayer until I was twenty nine. But saying it now, with my girls, all of us certain of each next word, is a gift—the gift of habit and routine and second nature.

It’s the gift of clean teeth we give our kids when we train them in tooth-brushing. The gift of manners we give them with every reminder to say please.

We train our children to do some things with their eyes closed. Because they are important things. And because sometimes we won’t want to do them but we should do them anyway.

Sometimes I feel like praying. I stretch out on the ground, face to the floor or lean back in my chair with a prayer journal and coffee. I prepare for those moments. I stretch out. I swim in the Spirit.

But sometimes I don’t want to pray. I’m tired or angry or just done. And I can’t make the words mean anything.

If in one of those moments, by some stroke of luck or blessing, I happen to start The Lord’s Prayer, I am rescued.

Rescued by a script that says the things I want to say but forget to say in the clutter of everyday living.

Rescued by a prayer that carries the memories of past times I prayed it, moments when God came close, moments when the kingdom did come.

I pray that prayer and the words, words written on my heart, stir something inside me—something I couldn’t have stirred on my own.

The Lord’s Prayer is second nature, something I can hardly override, the voice of God inside me speaking through me (despite me) to the the Lord my God in Heaven.

Thursday night I stayed in bed with the girls after the prayer. We talked about our day. We giggled. London kissed my cheek.

Like a reset button, our routine prayers had jarred us and set us right…