A Child’s Prayer

This week Max and I returned “home.” After fourteen years we have returned to Duke Divinity School so that Max can do some work with a few of his former professors. It has been too long. I did not realize how much I missed the architecture, the feel of the library, the atmosphere, and, most of all, the community.

We brought Matthew with us and it has been fun to show him where Mom and Dad met. And to load up on pint-sized Blue Devil shirts and other memorabilia, including our very own foam finger.

One of the highlights of the week was to be able to attend the daily chapel service at the Div School. There were many, many things about that service that created a high for me: getting to worship with fellow Div students again; experiencing the School’s new chapel, which is gorgeous and has the most incredible acoustics; hearing Dr. Hays preach; getting ashes on our foreheads; and receiving the bread and the wine.

But perhaps the greatest moment for me came during The Great Thanksgiving, when it came time to pray The Lord’s Prayer. Until that moment, Matthew had been sitting quietly, though a little restlessly, through the service. I imagine sitting through a worship service was not the highlight of his winter break from school. Yet as soon as we in the congregation began to recite The Lord’s Prayer Matthew perked up and began, quietly, to pray it as well. As I continued to pray, I watched him and felt a wonderful warmth in my heart.

This was an amazing moment for me because I did not know that Matthew knew The Lord’s Prayer. Certainly, having a father who is a Methodist minister, not to mention two parents who attended seminary, Matthew is exposed to a great deal of church stuff. And, being a smart kid, he has picked up a lot along the way. So it’s not that I was surprised that he knew the prayer. It’s just that, hearing him say it for the first time, I was filled with such a sense of wonder and awe. Without any formal training or time with The Lord’s Prayer flash cards, with just repeated exposure to the sound of this prayer, he has picked it up and begun to own it.

In his “Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer: A Lenten Study,” Ellsworth Kalas talks about exactly this. He writes that, “for many of us, not only can’t we remember when we first heard this prayer, neither can we remember when we memorized it – because our memorizing was not a conscious effort; it was simply the process of hearing the words until they were part of our very persons.”

I think this is another sign of God’s grace. Whether or not we know it, whether or not we can sense it, God is quietly working in us, to mold us, shape us, comfort us, prepare us.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

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