My first thoughts in the year 2016 centered around prayer, mostly that I don’t do enough of it. My paths are paved with the best intentions. Each season of the year I dutifully pick up the accompanying prayer book from church and imagine my family gathered around the dinner table, opening up to the daily prayer and reading it together.
Then life happens. Dinner is chaotic, we are in a rush and the seasonal prayer book remains unopened in the drawer.
Attending church feels more tense than prayerful. At present, our family is usually separated with Dad and our youngest in the cry room (and my son Kyle at the respite center) while I sit in church with the older two: listening to their whispered questions, handing them tissues, urging them to stand or kneel at the appropriate times, trying to prevent them fighting, attempting to diffuse their tiffs without making any noise, or sitting in my seat quietly fuming, embarrassed or exhausted. Aside from my insistence on singing and reading along with the readings in the book, the experience doesn’t often leave room in my mind for quiet reflection or deep prayers.
Most nights by the time I force myself into bed, I am too tired to remember to pray. My brain only stays conscious for moments before drifting off. In those moments if I do remember prayer, it is in thanks for all of my many blessings and quick prayers of protection for my family. If my prayers go further than that, I often get wrapped up in anxiety of all the “what-ifs.” In the past when I prayed for my children at night, I would pray for them to avoid specific ailments and harm. Those thoughts would spiral into detailed imaginings of the harm, leaving me in a fit of worry. As a person prone to anxiety, this is not a good way to begin a sleep cycle.
Like most people, I start out the year thinking of ways I would like to change for the better. Praying more is a great way to start that process. But prayer doesn’t have to be scripted. My second thought in the new year: love is a prayer. Even though I don’t voice the words in my head, each time I embrace my children and feel love surging through me, it is a prayer of thanks to God for my blessings. I don’t doubt that He hears it.