It’s approaching that time of night when I am about ready to turn out the lights. It’s been a good birthday and it’s just about over – nothing dramatic, just an ordinary kind of day with the exception of all the birthday greetings that people have sent me on Facebook, by phone and email. The last three years have seen more than 785 posts written for Transitions and if you have followed along for any period of time, you will know what to expect each evening. First, a story, then a verse for the night, followed by an encouragement and then a prayer.
As Christians, I’m sure that it goes without saying that prayer is a vital piece of our relationship with God. Whether we pray as a form of worship, or as a plea for help, or as a petition on behalf of someone else, prayer is one of the building blocks of the faith. On this day of reflection, I started to think about my first introduction to prayer. And then, I remembered. Even before I learned to say grace, as a very young guy, my Mom or Dad would come in my bedroom each evening as Doug and I went to bed, before our brother Ken was even born, and we said our prayers.
The one I learned is probably the same one you learned so many years ago… “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. God bless Mom, Dad, Scott, Doug (and Ken). Amen….” Nothing fancy, I grant you, but I said it every night. It was ritual. I didn’t understand the meaning of the words I was speaking, but I sure learned the words. It seems each birthday that passes, I think about those childhood memories as I was growing up on Claremont Ave. on the south side of Chicago. I re-live the times with my parents and life in the Toussaint home throughout the years growing up with my brothers.
We went to Sunday school or church each week, but other than going through the motions, I really didn’t get too much out of what I was supposedly learning. But somewhere deep down inside, I knew that I wanted a relationship with the Lord. I didn’t know what that would look like, but I did get confirmed in the Methodist church we attended and was active in the choir and Christian youth programs. I realized that it started with a relationship with God. Still, prayer didn’t become a part of life for many years.
My prayers didn’t get more sophisticated either. “Now I lay me…” seemed to work just fine and I knew it by heart. We didn’t say grace very often and the rest of the time, I depended on Sunday school teachers or ministers to do the honors. I never prayed publicly. And of course, I never even considered doing ministry work and actually coming to the point when prayer became a building block of my own faith life.
My paternal grandmother offered great prayers. And she had read the Bible more times that she could remember. Her specialty seemed to be grace, although she could really pray up a storm if she wanted to. And now I sit here, tired and ready for bed, unable to even fathom how many times I have prayed publicly or for others. It all started with “Now I lay me…”
The verse for this evening is the one I used for the first post I wrote three years ago tonight. It is the verse my grandmother referenced in the New Testament she gave me on my 10th birthday, Feb. 19, 1963. From Hebrews 13:20-21, “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” That in itself is quite a prayer, well, really a benediction.
My encouragement on this, my 61st birthday, is that God will always provide the tools and everything that you need to do His will. He will use us for His glory and nothing is as rewarding as knowing that God is working in you and through you. My prayer is that you will allow the Lord to do His good work in you, and that as the years go by, you will prayerfully consider all the ways that you have been equipped to carry on the Gospel message. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…