Saying memorized prayers has its pros and cons. Engaging in any ritual can be an exercise in just going through the motions, in vain repetition.
Yet, as anyone who's endured viewing #14 of the same princess sing-along video can testify, kids love repetition, vain or otherwise.
The other night, after praying my English-language bedtime prayer--the heartfelt, personalized one recounting the blessings of the day and the beauties of our children--I paused.
The half-conscious Brielle nudged me. "In Spanish, Daddy?"
This from a girl who's more likely to tell me, "Ix-nay on the anish-Spay, Daddy" (or something like that) when I try to bless her with bilingualism. But a Spanish prayer she's heard 'most every night since birth? That's different.
I do not like conforming to fashion, doing what is expected or eating at chain restaurants. Given the choice, I'd rather have a bad time doing something funky and memorable than a good time doing something conventional. Something in me--and I'm probably to blame for this tendency in Ashlyn--despises doing what's been done.
I'm not a big Green Day fan, but I dig their chorus, "I wanna be in the minority." Rage Against the Machine is far from my favorite band either, but I absolutely love that name.
I do not like to identify with the majority machine.
How much less do I want my religion to be a memorized revisiting of things traditional?
This is all pretty sad. At twice the age of a high-schooler, I still get stuck in my teeny worship of the trinity of novelty, originality and independence.
But with my kids' help, I am just now unlearning this idolatry. I'm plugging in to prayers much bigger than me, prayed by pray-ers much older than me.
Vain repetition? Sure, sometimes.
But when Daddy's too tired, short-sighted or human to remember to pray for what is near to the heart of God, a prayer that came straight from that Heart sure is nice to have. And when a phrase from that prayer connects with my heart and becomes my own, there is a real sense that God is close.
If but for a moment, God's heart and mine are on the same page. And my sleepy (well, except for Melía) daughters are there too.
The part of the Lord's Prayer that most often brings me to this place is this:
Venga tu reino. Hágase tu voluntad, como en el cielo, así también en la tierra. (Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.)
This used to be a mere wish for Jesus to come back and clean up the mess we've made of things. And of course, it still is that. My kids and I agree that the most exciting part of God's kingdom coming will be when He shows up visibly and takes us back to His big, big house. We groan along with all of creation for the day when Jesus will come and wake the sleeping dead and carry us home to be with them, to kick it with wild animals, to fly with the angels.
It is going to be awesome.
Yet more and more, this line has become for me a cry for help making our house into God's. When they arrive at God's pad, I want my kids to feel at home--not only because God is able to make anyone feel at home, but also because the Bennie house was something like heaven.
Justice. Mercy. Peace. Delight. Glorious humility. Love.
Henri Nouwen wrote, "We can only really wait if what we are waiting for has already begun for us. So waiting is never a movement from nothing to something. It is always a movement from something to something more" (from Seeds of Hope: a Henri Nouwen Reader).
When the Kingdom comes fully (and the sooner the better), I want Brielle, Melía and Ashlyn to experience it as something more of what has already begun for them. I want them to recognize the love they find in God's big, big house as something they knew an inkling of in the little mountain cabin they once called home.
The Kingdom of God is coming--in all its splendor. One day the lifestyle of the Sermon on the Mount will be real instead of ideal. God's will will be done on earth to the same degree as it is now done in heaven.
We can't wait.
But while we do, I pray with Jesus that we will wait actively, not wishfully. I pray we wait for what has already begun--right here in our humble, hopeful little home.