When Elliott and I were newlyweds, we attended an Anglican church in Washington, D.C. Many of the traditions of that church were a mystery to me, and they still are. (I can tell you about my church roots some other time.)
But during that year and a half, I came to deeply appreciate the Anglican church liturgy.
At first it seemed funny to repeat the same prayers every week – the same one for confession, the same one for communion, the same creed sandwiched between the two – but eventually I came to savor those prayers. It’s hard to describe, but I felt like my soul sank into them. Like into a soft bed or a couch.
During most of the service, my brain was humming: lifting up and soaring during the hymns and songs, focusing and thinking during the sermon, flitting from people watching to worship to people watching and back again.
But during the liturgical repetitions — during those prayers — my mouth and my heart and my brain all connected as I said those same familiar words again, forming them like pearls in my mouth, pondering and polishing them like rosary beads. Each week every word made more sense, and then became more precious, and then became the song of my heart. By comparison, I’ve felt this way about some popular songs that I’ve heard over and over on the radio until they worked their way into my brain and became my song and defined a certain period of my life. You know what I mean?
Anyway, back to the prayer I pray for my children, not the liturgy in general. Here is the prayer we learned in that church:
Almighty God, heavenly Father,
you have blessed our congregation with the joy and care of children.
Give us courage, patience, and wisdom
as we bring them up in the faith
that they might never know a day apart from you,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I love those words:
- Blessed our congregation – Raising these children is corporate work, ie. it takes a village to raise a child
- The joy and care of children – A blessing and a responsibility
- Courage, patience, and wisdom – What a powerful trifecta. How many thousands of times a day do I need courage, or find myself horribly lacking in patience, or grapple for wisdom?
- As we bring them up in the faith – This hearkens back to a commitment that began with the congregation’s and parents’ pledge to the children at their baptism, that they would teach them about their faith and how it applies to their life and work.
- That they might never know a day apart from you – The cry of my heart! Elliott and I were both born into homes where Jesus was loved and followed by “clay-footed” but faithful parents. Over the years we came to make that faith our own, and we are grateful that God has held us in his hand throughout our journeys. I hope and pray that our children have this same testimony.
- Through Jesus Christ our Lord — all things are possible through him!
I remember the first Sunday after we found out we were pregnant with Lena. I was so lonely and sad, because Elliott had just deployed for a year and Lena was totally unexpected and I was overwhelmed and so discouraged. And there I was, standing alone in church, our first child being knit together inside me, praying aloud with the congregation this beautiful, rich, deep, true prayer, and I was praying it for our own child, and I just cried and cried. There was such longing in those tears for so many things.
After repeating it a hundred times over a hundred Sundays, I memorized this prayer. I began to pray it at home whenever I prayed for our children. In Italy, with our old church far away, we prayed. And now we pray in California, years after we began, longing together for courage and patience and wisdom to bring our children up in the faith, longing that they might never know a day apart from Jesus.
There are so many ways to pray for those we love. I remember my mom said she prayed for me and my future husband every day of my life. Well, I’ve already failed at that for my own kids… but I guess doing starts with trying! (And I can imagine it feels more relevant as they get older.)
Do you have any prayers that you particularly love and repeat often, whether about children or not?