My mother recorded a prayer I said independent of her prompting when I was two and a half. These were my words, “We thank Thee for this nice family night and for the gospel and for the Holy Spirit with us and for the good in our hearts, the smiles in our hearts, and that I’ll get better, and for my friends. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
One of the earliest things we are introduced to is prayer. We first learn by listening to the prayers offered over the food, family prayer, and the prayers offered each week at church. We also learn about prayer by practicing as our mothers, fathers and teachers whisper prayerful words in our ear, which we repeat as best we can.
It’s important to grow in our ability to communicate with God. By the time I was a teenager I think I had actually digressed. Prayer became something I did because I was supposed to and not because I was really trying to communicate openly and honestly with my Father. My prayers became same-ish, the kind of prayer referred to as a “parrot prayer” in old Family Home Evening Lessons. I was bored and I was sure Heavenly Father was bored. In addition I had not been successful at being “perfect” so I was sure I was not only dull but I was also a disappointment to Him.
My little sister and I shared a double bed until I went to college. I remember some nights lying there in the darkness saying to her with great older sister authority, “Did you say your prayers?” “Oh no,” she would innocently admit. “I forgot.” Then she would kneel up in bed and pray while I stared face up toward the ceiling barrier between God and me, having no intention of “saying my prays”.
In order to survive adulthood of necessity I’ve had to take a good strong look at my prayer life. In the early days of recovery from compulsive addictive behavior I remember having a prayer with a sponsor or support person, a convert to the Church. At the close of my prayer she said, “Oh, you pray like all the rest, like you’re not really talking to someone.” She proceeded to teach me that in order to really connect with the Lord she had to be free to go outside the “thank you” and “please bless” box and express herself openly, honestly, and with great candor to the Lord. Today as I pray I practice believing that He loves me, that it gives Him great joy to hear from me, that He knows me, that He wants to help me, and that He has power to assist me with anything that’s disturbing me, big or small. I try to pray without perfectionism knowing that He is perfect and I am not. And it’s embarrassing to admit, but even today it’s easy for me to slip back into my same old thoughtless prayer patterns.
I’m still learning to pray, and once again the Lord has used the voice of children to instruct me. Over the past few months I’ve received many calls from my grandchildren. Sometimes I’m not at home to receive the calls so they have learned to leave me a phone message. I love these little communications so much that it’s hard for me to erase them. Recently I’ve been saving them so I can listen more than once to their little bits of communication. There are actually getting to be so many of them I’m in danger of running out of space on my answering machine and it won’t be many more day before I have to go through and push the delete button.
One day while I was listening to a new message from one of ‘the grands” I felt instructed by the Lord. “Nannette” the thought came, “Communication with me can and should be more than ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ Just as you value all of the varying phone messages your grandchildren choose to leave for you I treasure the great variety of things you might want to communicate to me.”
I immediately pushed the play button on the answering machine and began to listen. This is what I heard and what I learned:
Sammy Age 5 – “Hello Grandma and Grandpa. This is me, Sammy. Were on the mountain right now, walking down it. Were looking at the sunset. It’s so beautiful! And Grandma Bye Bye.” – The Lord wants us to express the joy we find in the view as we hike up and down the mountains of life.
Gracie age 2 – “Grandma, got “poopies.” Then repeating after her mom, she says, “I went poopies on the potty. Yea Gracie! Bye Bye.”– The Lord wants us to fill Him in on our progress no matter how indelicate the subject matter.
TJ Age 4 and Madeline Age 6 – “Hi Grandma. Happy Birthday yesterday,” TJ says enthusiastically. “Ya… Happy Birthday yesterday,” Madeline concurs. “We’re going to sing you a song” The whole family then chimes in together. “Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to you etc….” Then came TJ coda: “We love you love you love you. We love you love you thank you.” – The Lord always appreciates it when we celebrate Him.
Carson Age 5 – “Hi! This is Carson. I just wanted to say that I lost my first tooth, so give me a call. Bye.” The Lord wants to hear about all the firsts, all of the milestones in our lives.
Eliza Age 11 – “ Hi Grandma, I’m calling to invite you to a special Activity Day at the church where we’re all inviting our Grandmas. We’re going to have dinner and play a game. Can you come?” – The Lord loves to be invited along wherever we go.
Matthew, Jack and Esther Age 1 – These little one’s leave messages with the aid of their mothers that sound like this one:
“Say, ‘Hello, Hello.’”
“Say, ‘Hi, I love you Grandma.”
“Say, ‘I love you.’”
“Say, ‘Miss you.’”
“Say, ‘Happy, sleepy, doggy, bird, tree.’”
“Say, ‘Bye Love you.’”
Following each prompt from the mom came the sweet voice of a baby learning to put sounds and meaning together for communication. I love to hear the sound of their voices. I think the Lord loves the sound of our individual voices. I believe He loves to hear from us even when all we can manage to voice is His name.
Carson Age 5 – For Carson’s Birthday I bought him two new big puzzles with themes I thought he would enjoy (Cars and Curious George). I’m not sure what he was expecting, but to his mother’s dismay his response to the gift was less that enthusiastic. Later I received this message on my machine. “Sorry Grandma that I was being such a twit and I did that puzzle and it’s really big but not bigger than me. Thank you. Bye. Give me a call.” – The Lord needs to hear that we recognize it when we’ve been less than appreciative.
Ethan Age 8 – After Church and before the Sunday family dinner I pushed the play button and heard, “Grandma, this is Ethan. We’re going to tithing settlement and choir practice at 4:00 and then my mom will come home and turn the beans on to heat so I don’t know what time we’ll be there. We might be there at 5:30 and not 5:00…just so if there’s a problem call my dad’s cell phone.” – The Lord loves to hear what we have planned.
Carson Age 5 – “Hi Grandma. This is Carson. I just wanted to read you a story and its really funny…so bye…give me a call.” – The Lord has a sense of humor. He likes to have us share things in life that bring a smile and a chuckle, the things that bring us joy.
My mother tells another story about my early prayer life. I was not quite three years old. She was kneeling next to me listening as I prayed before jumping into bed. We had just moved into a very small house my parents affectionately referred to as “the Chalet.” Apparently we were not quite settled in. Perhaps I had heard my parents discussing the “how to’s” of moving their family of four, with a third baby on the way, into such small quarters. In the middle of the prayer mother says I started sharing with Heavenly Father in great detail exactly how we were going to arrange various pieces of furniture and household items in the tiny space so that everything would fit.
As I went on and on my mother, who had her eyes closed, says that the way I was speaking to Heavenly Father was so real, so authentic, that she knew if she opened up her eyes she would see Him standing in the room, taking in with great interest all that I was sharing. She remembers that at the conclusion of the prayer I said with great expectation, “Good idea Heavenly Father?” There was apparently no doubt in my mind that He was there and that He was interested in the details of my little girl life.
Tonight when I kneel to pray I want to be as real with my Heavenly Father as I was back then. I think I’ll imagine that my communications to Him are so precious that they are filling up all the endless space in His phone mail and He just can stand the idea of pushing the delete button and never will.
By Nannette W.
Posted Sunday, March 7, 2010.
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