Friday, December 26, 2014

The habit of prayer

When I was a kid I as encouraged by my mother to get on my hands and knees and pray every night.  Sometimes, when I was very little, she would kneel with me.  This was good because her words taught me how to pray, and her doing it with me made praying habitual.

As is perhaps the intended consequence of being a Catholic, on those nights when I didn't pray I felt guilty.  More often than not this guilt turned into a prayer. Mom said that, if you are tired or time is limited, even a sign of the cross is considered a prayer.  Sometimes I took advantage of this, thus making my prayers short.

Sometimes I would forget how to pray, and I would ask mom how.  When I was younger she'd pray with me.  When I was older, she read to me a passage of the Bible that explained how to pray.  When I was even older, she'd give me the name of the passage and have me look it up myself.  Perhaps this was her way of getting me to memorize the passage.  I did not.  Although, I wonder if it is one of these.

As I grew older and my life became busier, praying remained a habit.  I didn't always get down on my knees, but more often than not I did.  And, when I did, I usually felt that much better about my prayer.

During my six month stay at the asthma hospital in Denver I prayed on my back every night until I got my own room, and then I prayed on my knees.  There was always the risk a counselor could open the door and catch me, although, in retrospect that doesn't seem like such a bad thing.

When I returned from Denver life quickly got busy, and praying on my knees became a major challenge, especially as I had room mates in college.  So it became customary for me to pray while tucked under the covers in bed.  Still, the habit inculcated into me by my mother continued.

So I have a habit of praying at night.  I try the best I can to share this habit with my children.  I sometimes do it with them as mom did, although rarely do we kneel.  A childish feeling of guilt usually rushes through me when we do not kneel, and an even deeper guilt when we pray not at all.

When we do pray, our prayers are simple.  Laney uses the word "I wish" instead of "I pray." Yet I pray that she picks up the habit as I have.  Surely it helps during the course of this life.