Praying to God–a lost tradition between a mother and child

I learned to pray before I was three. My mother would kneel beside my bed, lean over me, and push my palms together, fingers pointed up at the photograph of Jesus praying in the garden. I loved the musky smell of her hair as she leaned over me making certain that my hands were clasped just right. It was respect, my first lesson. She said the words, and I repeated after her, several Hail Mary and the Lord’s Prayer. When my prayers were through, I would look up at the picture of Jesus hanging on a nail above my head, and say: “And please Jesus, don’t fall down on my head in the middle of the night.” My mother would laugh, tuck me in, kiss me and leave. Later, I looked forward to my prayers, every night, partly because it was a moment, alone I could share with my mom, who was busy caring for my younger brother and sister, each about a year apart. She had seven children, and sometime after the third sibling was born, my mother stopped saying prayers with me. I was about six years old. I had to learn to pray to God on my own. The relationship had already started, but I noticed that although my mother had referred to Him as “God the Father”, I always thought of God as my personal friend. As fate would have it, I am now, many years later, a guest in my 81 year old mother’s home. It is still my habit to pull my bed sheets down, and kneel beside the bed to say my prayers, before climbing in. I usually begin with two Hail Marys and the Lord’s Prayer, and finish with a long conversation with my friend. I was talking to Jesus when my mom walked in. It is her habit to just push open any door in her own home, without knocking. She caught me on my knees with my palms outstretched, not with my palms pressed as she had taught me. She looked perplexed.
“I taught you to pray, better than that,” she said.
“Mom,” I protested, without saying more. I rolled my eyes up to the ceiling. I felt embarrassed, and a little angry for her intrusion. Somehow, I had translated all of my parents teachings, through their actions, and lack of discussion, about God, and how He fits into every day life, as religion is a private matter.
“Well, you sound like you are talking to someone,” she said, as though it justified her intrusion. “I thought someone else was in here with you.”
“I was just praying,” I said.
“Oh. Well tell Him to send a little rain. Your father’s rose bush is dying.” Mom left without ever telling me what she had come in for, and closed the door behind her.
When she left, I felt ashamed. I realized that there was nothing to feel embarrassed about, and I wished that I had asked her to hold my hand and join me in prayer. I began to wonder, how we had drifted to far apart, from those days when she taught me to pray. When that tradition between a mother and her child had suddenly ended.

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3 thoughts on “Praying to God–a lost tradition between a mother and child

  1. Well, you made me cry. I remember the days of praying every night with my son. He was so cute, he would ask God to bless every single person he knew – by name. Now, we have fallen out of the daily habit and when we do pray together, I do the talking/praying. Your post has inspired me to be more intentional about praying with my kids. Thank you.

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