Four, Five, Six, Seven...
I remember my brother Tim learning how to pray. He was 4 or 5 at the time which put me around the 2 or 3 age bracket. This prayer thing was fun, cause it was the only time I remember my parents pretending to talk to someone who wasn't actually physically present. Pretend was something that came naturally to me. I had so many imaginary friends, so many fanciful conversations with the thin air. So many nights of talking to myself, creating voice overs and sound effects to color the story with texture and tones. My mind's eye had sharp 20/20 vision.
So to close our eyes and talk out loud to this Jesus-person that my parents insisted was right there in the kitchen with us was something of a mystery to me, yet it made sense to my little-boy heart. In the early years, we would parrot back whatever our parents barked out, "DEAR JESUS...dear jebus, THANK YOU FOR THE DAY...tank you fow da day. THANK YOU FOR OUR FOOD...tank you fow ow fuwd. IN JESUS NAME...in jebus name. AMEN. a man."
This was so much better than just listening to my mom and dad pray cause it called for personal involvement. When it was just them monologuing, it would take all my energy just to not open my eyes and eat the good smelling slop sitting on the plate directly in front of me. Looking back, this was probably the reason they started to actively involve us in the dinner time prayers...to keep us occupied.
I couldn't pray on my own yet--I could barely talk--but Tim was ready to launch out on his own. He had done the responsive prayers for a couple years and it was time for his next right of passage--solo praying. It's like solo flying for the first time without an instructor. You're looking forward to it but wondering if you'll be able to get the plane off the ground and landed without incident. Will I know how to use these instruments? Will I crash? Will I panic? Will I make it through? Yes, this is the crisis of learning to pray.
Dad asked Timmy to pray for the meal and, without pause, he was off to the races. "Dear Jesus, thank you four, five, six, seven..." I have to believe that God laughed himself off his throne, rolling on the ground holding his belly. These have to be the times when God is pleased that he created humans with free will, this human ability to live with a limp that prompts his laugh reflex.
Tim and I limped through prayer for years to come. We're still limping. And God's still laughing.