Teach me to pray
This sonnet by George MacDonald took me back to childhood struggles with public prayer. Especially public prayer in front of my father when we had daily Bible reading and prayer after breakfast. My child’s prayer follows MacDonald’s adult prayer.
Thou who inspirest prayer, then lend’st thine ear;
It, crying with love’s grand respect to hear!
I cannot give myself to thee aright—
With the triumphant uttermost of gift;
That cannot be till I am full of light—
To perfect deed a perfect will must lift: —
Inspire, possess, compel me, first of every might.
Teach me to pray!
George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul
Augsburg Fortress Press 1994
You alone can teach me to pray–in any language at all.
I’m a child—a young girl child
Who doesn’t know many fancy words.
I’m nervous about talking to You
Afraid You’ll see straight through the cracks in my walls
Or tell me to go to my room if I can’t stop crying
Or that my clothes are dirty and my heart is dirty too–
Besides, I have a bad attitude toward some people
I think You must love and talk to a lot
Even though I don’t understand why.
I’m not sure whose side You’re really on
Even though You say You’re on my side
And You want me to be happy
So does someone else I don’t trust anymore
My mind believes You won’t hurt me
But I can’t stop trembling in front of You
Stumbling over my choice of words
Afraid I’m nothing but a big failure
A little girl who’s lost in the woods somewhere.
Do You come looking for little lost girls?
What do You do when you find them?
Please tell me right away!
That’s really all I want to know.
I might have an easier time talking to You
If I could just be sure I can trust You.
Can you help me trust You?
I don’t think I can do it by myself.
I’m not sure what else to say
So I guess that’s all for now
In Jesus’ name Amen.
I don’t think MacDonald was writing about public prayer. Nonetheless, that was my first introduction to praying–in the presence of my father, mother and three sisters. I chose my child-words carefully, not going outside the boundaries of ‘good girl prayers.’ It wouldn’t do to raise eyebrows or betray a rebellious spirit.
I didn’t begin to understand prayer until God brought trustworthy allies into my life via a 12-step program. I finally began to get it. All I have to do is show up as I am. I don’t have to impress God, dress up my prayers, or please anyone. In fact, most of the time I could probably listen quietly, smile or even cry from time to time while God lets me know how wonderful it is to see me. No matter what I say or how I say it.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 April 2016
Artwork found on Google from http://www.royaldoors.net