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Published:September 17th, 2009 01:59 EST
Learning to Pray (pt. one)

Learning to Pray (pt. one)

By Mark Frederic Jennings

Matthew 19

13Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. 14But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
    Well, that last chapter sure was a blast from the past, as they say. Yeah, some blast; and I`m being facetious, of course. But hopefully, though it may not have been pretty to see, I hope that story at least illustrates how the Holy Spirit was involved in my life even way back then. Way back when I had no idea that He was there. But He was.

    This next story is like that too. Its another blast from the past. But from back even further. Or if you prefer, in keeping with that whole puzzle analogy the Lord gave me in that vision back at the beginning, I would definitely say this is the next piece in the puzzle I need to show you.        

And something else about this story too is that it`s probably about as far back in my past as I can remember. It goes way back. Way back to when I was just a little kid. And as far as I can also remember, like a lot of kids do, back then I used to say my prayers almost every night.  Which I would how to do that with the help of my sister Diane, who I shared a bedroom with back then most the time. Since we were just runts and all. I was probably only about seven or so. And like always, she was two years older than me.

    And our house at that time would have been the one just about in the middle of good old Griffith way in Emmit, California where I grew up. And the reason I say, "would have been the one,` is because, believe it or not, we lived in four different houses on that street. One on each end of the short, about a half-mile long, street, and then in a couple in the middle too. But placing this whole episode at the right time frame back then would have put us two youngsters, along with the rest of my family, in the one in the middle of the block. The one numbered 1008.

    At night in Emmit it was usually pretty warm too. Very warm in the summer, being in Southern California like it was, and if you`d been walking down our street past our modest, three bedroom house at about nine o`clock or so on a summer evening you probably would have heard the humming drone of our fan trying to cool off our room as it sat in or near the window that opened out onto our front yard that separated the house from the sidewalk with about ten or fifteen yards of struggling lawn.

    Then if you listened even closer, under the sound of the fan, you might have heard the voices of two little children learning how to pray. Or, like I`ve already said, I would have been the one learning and my sister would have been the one teaching me. And it probably would have sounded something like this.

      Now I lay me down to sleep, " my sister said, her voice coming from the top half of our bunk beds.
      Now I lay me down to sleep, " I repeated. And probably it was like the umpteenth time she would have been teaching me our family bedtime prayer. I`ve never been a real fast learner.    
    I pray the Lord my soul to keep. "
    I pay the Lord- "
    I  pray the Lord! "
    Oh, I  pray the Lord my, my- "      
    -my soul to keep. "
    My soul to keep, " I added proudly, and then without any prompting from her, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. "
    "If I should die before I wake," she added.
    "If I should die?" I asked, not really wanting to say something that scary. "I don`t wanna say that."
    "Oh just say it. Everybody dies dodo!"
    "Not me."
    "Oh you will too."
    "Well, I guess, but I`d rather not think about it. Or pray about it either," I had to tell her. "How come that`s in a prayer?"
    "Because if you do die you want Jesus to take care of you don`t you," she explained.
    "Yeah, I guess so," I reluctantly admitted, not really wanting to go there, as they say nowadays.
    "Well just say it then. If I should die-"
    "If I should die-"
    "Before I wake-"
    "Before I wake-"
    "I pray the Lord-"
    "I pray the Lord-"
    "-my soul to take."
    "-my soul to take."
    -and then I`m sure next she would have taught me the part that followed where we would say, "and God bless,` and then list off all our relatives and anyone else we might want God to bless at that moment, like the new kid I`d played with that day, or that cute boy at school, my sister might say, which would get nothing but raspberries out of me, even if we were praying. But I`m sure my sister would have made sure I said them all, starting from the top.
    My mother and father- "   
    My mother and father- "
    -and my three sisters- "   
    -and my three sisters- "
    -Sheila and Gaila and then you say my name- "
    -Sheila and Gaila and then you say my name, " I mimicked her and started giggling.
    No Marky! This is serious! Stop joking! Praying is like talking to God! You better be serious. "
    Oh okay, " I said, suddenly doing that, getting serious that is.
    I`d never thought of it that way though. Talking to God and all, and as I thought of it like that it was like all of sudden He was there in the room with us. So yeah, I got real serious.
    But then I`m sure we would have finished up with the list in a much more dignified and serious manner. Although at the end I remember there would have been the ever-present naming of our various pets, "Petite,` our French poodle, "White boy,` our cat and "Rock Hudson,` our desert tortoise that lived out in our backyard in a hole that could have tunneled halfway across town for all we knew. But so as serious and dignified as all that could have been, maybe I should say.
     Then we would have finished up.
    In Jesus name, amen. "
    In Jesus name, amen, " and I waited a second thinking, then asked, Hey Diane " "
    What? "
    What does it mean when you say "God bless` about someone? "
    It means you want God to watch out for them. To take care of them. And take them up to heaven when they die. "
    Oh, that sounds good, " I told her. But what about me, " I asked then too.
    What?! " she yelled down at me. I was good at getting on her nerves, being her little brother and all.
    Well, what about me, " I asked again. Shouldn`t I ask Him to bless me? "
    Nooo, " she said, sounding even more exasperated. That`s what I do. And mommy does. Everyone else does. Everyone in our whole family prays this prayer. And when they do they ask Him for you. "
    Ohhh," I said and then thought a moment. "Everyone? "
    Yesss! "
    I`ll bet Sheila doesn`t, " I said. Sheila was our oldest sister.
    What! "
    Well, she`s already in high school. "   
    So. "
    Plus she wears makeup. "
    So. "
    -and she dates boys, " I added in, figuring I had her with that one.

    So. Marky! " and I could tell that I`d finally gotten to her. But then she further explained. All of that doesn`t matter, goofy! In fact, that`s when you need to pray even more because- and she stopped all of a sudden. She had come to something she knew I wouldn`t understand and really shouldn`t even know about either at my age. -just go to sleep, " she finished with, in a bossy tone, which I didn`t appreciate so I pushed up with my foot into her mattress directly above me, right about where I knew her butt would be. I knew that make her even madder.

    Hey, " she said. Stop it or I`ll tell. "

    Allright. "

    I gave in quick, not wanting any trouble. My mom would get really mad if she had to come in and break up a fight.

    It was quiet for a minute. Then I noticed in the half-light of the room that she was dangling her foot off the edge of her mattress up there, and I don`t know why exactly, but that always gave me the creeps.

She knew it too, of course. Payback.   

    Hey, you quit it, " I said up at her.

    Quit what? " she said real smarty like.

    Quit hanging your foot over. "

    I`m not hanging my foot over, " she said, baiting me.   

    Quit it, " I said, sounding scared now. That was the problem I had with the whole thing, you see. I always thought the foot belonged to a dead person for some stupid reason. I must have seen a movie with that in it or something once upon a time.

    Ohmygosh! " she exclaimed all of a sudden. There`s a dead body up here! " She knew about my fear.

    Ahhhh, " I half yelled. Mommy, " I quietly added, not really wanting to call her, but letting my sister know I soon would if she didn`t quit it. She quickly pulled her foot back into bed. It was quiet again for another minute or so.

    Hey Marky, " she started in, being nice again now I could tell by the tone of her voice. That was fine with me. Doesn`t the fan make it sound like we`re on an airplane? "

    I thought about it a minute. It really did. At least as far as I knew. I`d never been on an airplane, and neither had my sister either, I`m pretty sure. Which, of course, made it even better. More believable and everything. Since we didn`t really know what one should have sounded like.   

    Yeah, it does, " I had to agree.

    Well, let`s pretend we`re on an airplane. Flying across the country. And we have to sleep on the plane. And we`re going someplace really neat. "

    Ok, " I said, and closed my eyes and our bedroom became the inside of a large airplane with the sound of our fan becoming the sound of the huge propellers on its wings just outside our room, carrying us through the night sky.

    Goodnight, " my sister said down at me.

    Goodnight, " I said back and pulled up my sheet, thinking it must get quite cold way up in the sky like we were. And probably we both fell asleep like that, thinking we were on some long distance flight somewhere. I was probably imagining we were flying to Yankee stadium or something. And She was probably imagining us headed for Paris, France or whatever. My sister Diane grew up fast.

     And I`ll stop there for now. Stay tuned for part two.