When I was approaching nine years of age, my mother entrusted me with a quarter, and sent me off to the store to buy a loaf of bread. That was a long time ago, 1954, to be exact. The quarter was pure silver, for in those days our currency still counted for something. My dad worked long hours as a laborer for fifty cents an hour. My route to the store traversed a small lot, and the path I took beat its way through knee high grass. Somewhere along the way, that silver quarter was lost. When I arrived at the store, and reached into my pocket for the quarter, there was nothing there. I was horrified, for my mother had trusted me with something my father worked very hard to earn.
Going back outside the store, I found a place where I could be alone, and knelt down to pray, as my mother taught me. I prayed a simple little prayer, very earnestly pleading somewhat like this: “Heavenly Father, I thank you that I can pray. I am sorry that I am not always a good boy. Please forgive me. I am praying because my dad worked so hard for that quarter. My mother trusted me with it, and now I have lost it. Please help me to find it! Please! In Jesus name, amen.” I got up off my knees and walked back along the path, and there, just a little ways off the path, in the grass, I saw the glint of a silver quarter. Excited and grateful, I prayed again. “Thank you, Heavenly Father, thank you! Oh thank you! In Jesus name, amen.”
Almost instinctively, for I had been taught by my mother, I had addressed my petition to my Heavenly Father, first expressing gratitude for my blessings. I then appealed to Him for forgiveness of my sins. What followed next was no frivolous request, but rather a most sincere petition of need. I then closed in the name of Jesus Christ, who mediates our cause before the Father.
And then, after having my prayer answered, another prayer followed, a prayer of gratitude. How important is gratitude! I had learned early, that there is a God in Heaven, and that though I was but a boy, my prayer mattered to Him. He loved me, for He listened. I mattered enough to Him that He answered my prayer!
Through the decades since that child’s prayer, my prayers have followed the same pattern. Oh, I have learned to use “Thee” and “Thou” in the place of the more familiar “you”, but at age nine (or at any age) of greatest importance was that mine was the sincere pleading of a child who did not doubt that his prayer would be heard. I have rejoiced at the sight of my little grandchildren praying, for their mothers have taught them, and they do not doubt.
Although decades have passed, my prayers continue to follow the same pattern, that of a child speaking to his Father. And I have learned, through many tears and much heartbreak, the importance of uttering a heart rending and sacred, “Thy will be done”. And I love Him, beyond my power to express.
Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
Uttered or unexpressed,
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast.
Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear,
The upward glancing of an eye
When none but God is near.
Prayer is the simplest form of speech
That infant lips can try;
Prayer, the sublimest strains that reach
The Majesty on high.
Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath,
The Christian’s native air,
His watchword at the gates of death;
He enters heav’n with prayer.
Prayer is the contrite sinner’s voice,
Returning from his ways,
While angels in their songs rejoice
And cry, “Behold, he prays!”
The Saints in prayer appear as one
In word and deed and mind,
While with the Father and the Son
Their fellowship they find.
Nor prayer is made on earth alone:
The Holy Spirit pleads,
And Jesus at the Father’s throne
For sinners intercedes.
O thou by whom we come to God,
The Life, the Truth, the Way!
The path of prayer thyself hast trod;
Lord, teach us how to pray.
( James Montgomery, 1771-1854)