The 365 Commitment

A Child’s Prayer

It is funny how you remember certain specific events in your life with great clarity, yet others you do not recall at all. I have vivid images in my mind of certain moments, and I have always wondered why? Now that I am older I am starting to piece it together. For example, I remember a very specific day when I was 5 years old. I know the day very well, I can recall a bunch of things that happened that day. Little things, seemingly inconsequential. Why would I remember that day above any other day? Well, I believe that was the day that my parents told me that we were moving to Colorado.

I do not remember the conversation at all. I am sure my mom was worried about it. She probably fretted over telling her child they were going to leave their house and move out of state. I had a couple of friends in the neighborhood, whom I must have liked because I still remember their names. Anyway, it seems powerful events in our lives must really cause us to remember the particular moments surrounding the event in vivid detail.

This is the same for the day that I remember saying my first ever prayer. Now, I am sure that I was asked by an adult occasionally to mumble through a prayer. Dear God, thanks for the food, thanks for my family and all of that. However, I never had actually prayed for any reason of my own. A personal prayer, a pleading for divine intervention if you will.

I have always mistaken when this prayer occurred. I always linked it to my 14 year old self, but recently in a conversation with my mom I made the connection of why I remember this particular day so vividly. This day was December 3rd, 1979, the early morning after Alfred Lane passed away. You see he was my Grandmother’s second husband and he really was Grandpa to me.

My Grandmother lived in Riverside, CA. She remarried after her first husband had suffered from heart failure many years before. Her and Al were doing all the things that retired people do, traveling, playing cards, eating out everywhere. Things that I loved, they would pick me up and take me out to California. It felt like play time to me, because it was. In fact, earlier that summer that is just what we did. I still remember that car ride, and I still remember many of the conversations. I made them proud at one stop by eating all my pancakes. They bragged that was an amazing feat, I beamed with pride.

Anyway, my mom was in California all that week. She left me back in Grand Junction with my father. You see we had recently built a nice new three story home, and as you can imagine there was a bunch of little things to fix all over the place. The landscaping had not been even thought about yet, unless of course you love the natural landscape of Southwestern Colorado which is mixture of red ant hills, sage brush, and discarded construction scraps from projects nearby. I got to spend a week with my Father working on projects, including a fence that he was attempted to build on the side yard. For a seven year old boy, this was awesome!

Now that I am many years older, I can totally sympathize with this scenario. I know what it is like to try to get house projects done with your seven year old son or daughter bouncing around peppering you with questions and begging you to see their latest discovery. Anyway, I was happy with the results of the fence that “we” were building. My mom came home that day, we picked her up from the airport. It was a happy reunion and all was well.

I vaguely remember a few stressful things going on. They were above my head at the time, but my parents were worried about a few things. President Carter was messing things up, the economy was really struggling. Were in the process of the 1979 energy crisis, stagflation was a term that I learned at a very young age. Grand Junction, Co where I lived at the time was really dependent on the oil and gas industry. When Exxon would eventually pull out of town, abandoning the excavation of oil shale, the local economy would almost completely fall apart. I saw news stories about people lining up to buy toilet paper and gasoline. Sounds kind of familiar!

Just a side note. I was a normal kid, but there was one thing unique about me in this regard. I actually worried about this global economic stuff. I was constantly evaluating how my situation could get really bad. I kept real close to my parents, because I knew that if they disappeared I was going to be in for some real hurt. I had recently learned how to read, a major discovery for me. I never could get it, but by 2nd grade I was starting pick things up. I was secretly trying to read the adult stuff, just so that I could make sure that I would have a hope for survival if that situation were to come up.

I take that side note, because I remember mom and dad having a troubling conversation that late evening. I do not remember the context or the topic. My dad might have said, how much money did you spend in California? My mom might have sarcastically replied, all of it. Either way, the subject of money or lack thereof would have my 7 year old brain spinning. Uh-oh, I would have thought. The stagflation has come to get us too! What am I going to do!? How many pennies can I find? I was keenly interested in the politics of the day, probably because my mom was deeply engaged in it and there were frequent conversations in the house. You also have to realize that the Iran hostage crisis had just begun and I was watching the TV frequently while that was happening. Inflation, unemployment, hostage taking, gas lines, uncertainty in the economy. A 7 year old that thought it was his burden to create an escape plan for the family.

This is all context building up to the phone call. My mom, had just spent the week with Grandpa and Grandma Lane. Around 2am, my mom gets a call that Grandpa Al was found dead sleeping in his bed. He died with a smile on his face they said. I remember trying to bring that image up in my mind. My mom was crying a lot and we were immediately making plans to pack up and head out to California. So this is the setting and the circumstance and the reason that I remember the morning of the December 3rd, 1979 so well.

A few weeks prior to this, my mom once again rallied the troops to go to Church. Got my 4 year old sister ready, me and my naturally unkempt cool hair style and my reluctantly supportive father went off to Church. We were on a good streak, I believe. My mom should be proud, with all that was going on, she kept her eye on making sure that us kids would have some religious education to fall back on. I remember this Church day very well, because of the events that would occur a few weeks later. I got plopped down in a Sunday School class with a bunch of other rowdy, disruptive and noisy 7 – 8 year old kids. I did not fit in too well. They were worried about finding out if the could sneak the jolly ranchers out of the old lady’s purse, I was contemplating how I might escape this place if there was a fire. They made me uncomfortable, they were rude, and unruly. I just sat there quietly, tried not to stick out and watched the elderly woman pull her lesson manual out of her purse. The woman struggled with the class, they were not listening, well maybe a few of the girls were. Perhaps it was just the two boys that were annoying, I do not remember the detail on that. I do remember the chalk board, and I remember what the woman put on it.

This was the day I was taught how to pray.

Now, I am sure that my mom and dad taught me about prayer, probably had me say a few. I had seen and heard plenty of people pray. I knew that different religions prayed differently. However, I had never connected prayer with a personal thing for me to figure out. I had also never considered prayer as a possible option to help me with these really complex problems that I had no hope of figuring out. The woman took the approach of teaching us step by step how to pray. She listed the steps. Start with a greeting, Dear Heavenly Father, or Dear God will work. Then explain what you are grateful for, then ask for something you need then close out your prayer. Take a long pause and listen, you might pick something up valuable.

Anyway, no one really listened to her lesson, but I did. I remember she gave us an example or two, talked about the benefits of prayer and she concluded with asking us to try praying out loud. Get on your knees, she said, in a quiet place and talk to God out loud. She challenged us and then we all quickly got out of there and went to find our families.

So when the call came, and my family was so distraught, and all that was hanging over me I decided to slip out the back door of the house. I went to the backyard and went around the fence that my father was building and for the first time in my life I said my own personal prayer to God. What I specifically asked for is mine alone to know, but you can imagine what it was about considering the circumstances. Early the next morning, we were all in the car, heading to California.

I bring this up because in times of stress, hardship, and uncertainty prayer is a powerful weapon. My 7 year old self figured that out. Now you may or may not actually believe in a Supreme Being that hears and answers prayer. I actually do not think that is of consequence in this one thought. Prayer just simply works, it is the atheists’ greatest quandary. They do not ascribe to deity, yet people seem to gain solace and benefit from the practice. Tough spot, but here is a thought. If you believe in God, great, if you do not then consider the fact that most behavioral scientists will concur that the very idea of God, or something greater than ourselves, is probably what was the spark that ignited human consciousness. You have to really wonder why all of our myths taught to children take on this concept of faith in the unknown and unseen.

So consequently, communication with the unseen, the powerful entity outside of ourselves is a healthy, and productive practice. From a sheer utilitarian viewpoint, it is a good idea. From a religious and worship viewpoint, the practice is necessary and very much needed for a rewarding and enriching experience with faith.

Any rate that is my story of my first personal prayer as a child. The prayer was answered by the way, but that is a whole other story and not for this blog. Suffice to say that the 365 commitment that I am still following after 822 days in a row begins and ends with prayer.

Guy Reams

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Bob Houghton
Bob Houghton
3 years ago

I have been trying to find a way to get my two kids to consider prayer as something more that how we start dinner every night and because I said they should. I’ll have them read this. Thank you

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