Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.
~ Mahatma Gandhi
As I reflect with gratitude on the role my children’s father has played in their lives, I recall the tone he set right from the start in connecting them with the resource of prayer.
Following surgery, our toddler daughter, returned from the recovery room swathed in medical tubing, looking lost in a cage-like crib that prevented us from reaching or touching her.
“Please say prayers,” her tiny, post-anesthesia voice croaked as we hung over her, feeling helpless. Not quite 3, and she already knew exactly what to do first in any uncertain situation. Her dad had stood over her every night at bedtime, from the day of her birth, and recited the prayer for healing she no doubt then also knew by heart.
When her younger brother came along, we whispered prayers into his tiny ears, too. Both children also saw our own prayers as a part of daily life. (“Thank you for being quiet now. Daddy is praying.”)
But one day, our small son showed me that using prayer and having confidence in it are very different things. I know instictively that this is something he learned from his dad. I was driving a pretty exciting sports car that my husband’s brother had loaned us while our own car was in the shop. As I was driving to pick up our son at his preschool, it started to snow. At first, it was just a pretty coating on the trees, but by the time I reached his school, wet snow was coming down fast and had covered the roads.
I picked up our son, and as we pulled away from the school, seat belts safely fastened, the big racing tires on that car sent it into a frightening spin. After I regained control, I realized that it was going to be a very difficult drive home on twisting back roads. I was scared, and remember saying something out loud that was surely a prayerful plea.
I saw my son fold his hands, drop his head, and remain silent during that 20-minute crawl that usually took 10. When we reached our driveway, he released a large exhalation of relief and asked, “Is it OK to stop praying now?”
I looked at him, astonished, and realized that this was what he’d been doing as I’d struggled to get us home safely. And of course, his 5-year-old’s literal logic simply knew that those prayers had done their job, right?
The prayer he had used is one that many Baha’is throughout the world employ when faced with challenges: “Is there any Remover of difficulties save God? Say: Praised be God! He is God! All are His servants, and all abide by His bidding!”
This was a somewhat long prayer for such a small boy to have committed to memory. He referred to it at the time as the “e-mover.” He had, quite possibly, first begun to hear it said out loud when his father would say it when we saw an auto accident on the road as we traveled.
The unity and love in a family bestow gifts on every one of its members. The inner confidence our children learned from their father about the power of prayer continues to help me learn that everything benefits when prayer is applied to it, and that every answer, whatever its outward appearance, is a blessing.