ONE FOND MEMORY of my childhood is saying bedtime prayers. I remember getting into my footie pajamas and begging daddy to (literally) throw me into bed, followed by some hilarious bopper kisses. “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. God bless momma, daddy, Mark, MamaJo, Grandma Powell, Uncle Bill, Aunt Sharon, Uncle Terrence, Aunt Marilee...” It was imperative for me to get everyone in, plus, I might just be seeing how long I could make daddy stay. When I started mentioning my pets and the animals on the farm I would crack one eye to see if he was paying attention. Of course, I’d get caught and be instructed to wrap it up. After I finally said Amen, he would lean over and kiss me on the forehead, and I’d try to steal the cigarettes that fell out of his shirt pocket. Making sure he had all of them, he’d get up and tell me not to let the bed bugs bite as he turned the light out. Prayer was a fun ritual at bedtime.
prayer : an earnest hope or wish
After I was too old to be tucked in, prayer served as daily reflection. After getting into bed, lights already off, I would lay wide awake looking towards heaven in a heartfelt contemplation of sins I committed that day. I would recall the fib that my mother believed, the undone chore that dad had told me to attend to, something I stole, or I wasn’t nice to someone. I remember how frustrating it was not to get through an entire day without doing something that left me ultimately ashamed. I prayed in great angst. I recently found a prayer I wrote: Forgive me of my sins and bless me. Help me be the very best I can. Help those who are sick and hurt, both mentally and physically. Bless family and friends both near and far. Thank you for all my gifts and guide me tomorrow as you have guided me today. Amen. As a young adult in a big world, I prayed this prayer for years.
My faith grows stronger the older I get. I don’t have to profess it or make you agree with it. Whether or not you believe it, doesn’t have an effect on what is. However, with maturity, my prayers have become much more subtle. I still sin on a daily basis, but I’m not anxious about the little stuff anymore. Instead, I express a lot of gratitude for this gift. My prayers don’t happen at bedtime anymore because I work hard, and I fall into bed unconscious. I’ll sometimes pray when I wake, especially if nothing aches or hurts. I’ve prayed while getting ready for work. I’ll look in the mirror and see a man with furrowed brow and remind him to smile and look grateful. Prayer might happen several times in one day. With every curse, I try to remember to say thanks for something. Whether my head is bowed with eyes closed, or head up and eyes open searching, or now, looking you straight in the eyes, I understand the divine light in me is reflected in you, and I pray to be a little bit better every day by living consciously and being a bit more grateful. I seek to encourage joy, aid and comfort, and do no harm. Oh, and God bless Heather and Chris, Maddie and Olivia, Laura and hers, Will and his, Jessica and hers, Dave and his, all the Powell’s, the Weavers and Haiglers, those poor immigrants, all the children in the world, Leelee, our pets, all animals in the world, bugs... JOE