When I was a kid, we prayed for everything. Big test? Pray! (Possible priesthood blessing, too.) Fight with friends? Pray! Lost a dollar bill you were gonna buy candy with at the local convenience store? Pray! (I don’t remember actually hearing that one preached from the pulpit, but it worked! Immediately after the prayer, I stuck my hand in my coat pocket and found the dollar! And then bought those candy cigarettes. God was good. Word of Wisdom be damned. Am I dating myself? They weren’t REAL cigarettes, for pete’s sake!)
Anyway, by God, my sisters and I were good pray-ers. My brother wasn’t bad, either, although a bit of a grandstander. You know, always had to throw something in to top the last prayer. The only problem was, we had a rote prayer, and it was pretty hard to deviate from it. But at least one sentence needed to be unique. Totally you. Unless it was Fast Sunday and we were really hungry, and wanting to get that prayer over with so we could finally eat.
“Heavenly father, we thank you for this day. We thank you for all our many blessings. Please bless mom and dad, and the neighbors, and the man down the street. nameofjesuschristamen.”
Now, if the prayer was over FOOD, it was slightly different.
“Heavenly father, we thank you for this food, and we ask you to bless it, that it may nourish and strengthen our bodies. And I want a bike for Christmas. nameofjesuschristamen.”
It didn’t really take that much concentration. In fact, I think we memorized one stock prayer and just sort of improvised from there on out. But when we were praying, you HAD to pay attention. Sorta.
So one day, during Sunday dinner, it was my sister Brenda’s turn to pray. And she started the prayer, but the phone rang. Still, she continued on, and finished the prayer, because the rote prayer (as you can read above) is not really all that long, and back then there weren’t answering machines, and the phone would just ring and ring until the caller gave up. If it was my Aunt Maxine calling, there would be no giving up. That phone would ring all night, and into the next day. Aunt Maxine was so stubborn it might even ring for a week. And when she died, the phone clutched in her hands, weak from lack of food and water, I know she would have said, “I was trying to call you. Why didn’t you pick up?”
Anyway, when Brenda finished, she jumped up and grabbed the phone, and said, “Heavenly Father?”
I don’t remember who was on the other end of the line. But for just a moment, that person was a GOD. There’s just no feeling like it.