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Sleepy Musings on Prayer, Sweaters, and Ballerinas
I own a cozy “home sweater,” the equivalent of a robe, that I dearly love. It’s made from the same material as fuzzy socks and feels as if a small cloud has engulfed you in a warm hug. I purchased it when my second daughter was born and slipping into it brings to mind comfort, cuddles, slow mornings, late nights, and that indescribable smell of newborn baby. When I am hustling around the home caring for my people, this sweater creates a sweet reminder of the need for softness and the familiar in our lives.
My family recently went through two bouts of the flu, both upper respiratory and stomach, simultaneously. The doctor who assured us that it was one virus, merely presenting differing symptoms in our two daughters, severely underestimated my family’s ability to pick up germs.
While in the doctor’s office, in the ten minutes it takes to run a strep test, I found myself cuddling my drowsing toddler and whispering the the Lord’s Prayer. This caught me off guard. Being raised a Protestant, I have always gravitated towards free-style prayer. Perhaps that’s simply where my comfort zone extends due to not growing up hearing the memorized prayers of the higher liturgical traditions, or maybe I subconsciously ascribed some kind of quality system to prayer with free form as more from the heart.
In my sleep deprived state of contemplation, my mind chewed on this idea of a “better” prayer. I laughed softly to myself realizing that most of my sleepy prayers morphed into old hymns or memorized scripture. My mind gravitates towards places of comfort and familiarity when my heart needs rest and peace. Like slipping on an old sweater, my mind reaches for that which it knows.
A few favorite comfort prayers of mine are ‘Come Thou Fount’, St Teresa of Avila’s Prayer of Peace, and Psalm 23. When I whisper that Psalm, I still see the faded poster in my first-grade teacher’s classroom. Mrs Graham asked each of her students to commit that scripture to memory. Psalm 23 held the place of honor on the cabinet door which held cleaning supplies, animal crackers, and soft pastel Dixie cups. The poster was written in the King James translation and the soothing sounds of “maketh” and “leadth” still calm me.
On some level, I’ve considered memorized prayers to lack feeling when in reality they hold the weight of tradition and emotion deep within. Like a ballerina committing to memory the steps practiced by decades of dancers before her, the routine is not any less important for having been performed before. In fact, we hold those familiar movements of ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ or ‘Swan Lake’ in esteem all the more for the dancer’s execution of the exact steps. They move in rhythm and synchronicity with all the dancers who came before them and those who dance around them. The set steps allow others to dance beside them and make the performance more beautiful.
We speak, pray, and sing in tandem with both those who came before us and those around us; even with Christ as He taught us how to pray The Lord’s prayer. Our memorized prayers hold us in familiar comfort when tired, in community when lonely, and in memory with the hosts of saints who came before us when we need strength.
This revelation is far from original or earth shattering, and yet it’s spoken to my heart time and time again this month. These prayers, scriptures, and hymns hold my tired mind with the age old comfort that has been whispered, memorized, and sung for centuries. They connect me to those who came before me and provide a well tread path for when my feet are weary on the road.
I would love to hear: what are your comfort prayers, passages, hymns, worship songs, or sweaters? Could we pray them together during out late nights with littles or long days of work?
Or maybe this doesn’t connect with you and nothing really comes to mind; that’s fine too. What an amazing Lenten practice to search out the prayers, songs, or scriptures that speak to your heart. The Psalms, old hymns, worship music, or prayers of the saints are a great place to start your search. We could all benefit from a greater number of beautiful prayers in our back pockets.
Let’s approach this Lent together with a heart willing to find and pray those well worn and loved prayers that have spoken to souls and minds alike for centuries. Lord, hear our prayers.
‘Shadow Revelations’ by Marina Gross-Hoy at The Mothering Spirit is an essay I’ve read and re-read this month. This piece is beautifully written and an arrow straight to the heart of a less talked about issue in motherhood.
‘The Last Bookshop in London’ by Madeline Martin was a joy to read. Full of tenderness and the human connections formed through great literature, this book brought together many of my favorite themes.
Be A Heart’s 2023 Lenten Seasonal Guide is a game changer for practicing Lent well as adults and with your littles! They offer this as a free download and its chocked full of coloring sheets and helpful ideas and facts about Lenten practices.
Coming Up Next Month
An essay on Mary and Martha that I’ve been pondering all month but which wasn’t quite ready by the time our family took sick.