Sunday, December 28, 2014

Powerful Praying

Cousin Paul knew the power of prayer and he had the gift of oratory that allowed him to pray over most anything at the drop of a hat. A retired Southern Baptist preacher, Cousin Paul was not only our neighbor, he was my dad's mother's second cousin; thus, we children out of respect were taught to call him "Cousin Paul." If any of the three of us witnessed his arrival coming down the walk, we'd pass the word to "quick, get out of the house, here comes "Cousin Paul"! If we were unlucky enough to get caught in the house, there'd be nothing to do but sit quietly through his long visit and an endless prayer. This particular Sunday afternoon Cousin Paul came to check on Dad who'd had an ingrown toenail removed and was in quite a bit of pain and unable to make it to church earlier that day.
     There had been none of the above forewarning, and the entire family was called in to say a prayer with Cousin Paul. After he had settled himself on the sofa, he bowed his head and began his petition to the Lord to heal Dad's toe. Well, praying for Dad's toe was more than one of my sisters could take, and she jumped up and ran from the room, hands over her mouth and tears of laughter streaming down her face. Mother went after her and we heard doors slamming and muffled laughter. Fortunately, Cousin Paul was so transfixed (and hard of hearing) that he continued his prayer without lifting his head until he reached his "amen". My dad rose from his chair with a great big grin on his face and said, "Thank you, Cousin Paul, that was some powerful praying, my toe feels better already."

As a Southern Baptist myself, I grew up with that kind of prayer, passionate, oratorical prayers--not only by the preachers, but members of the congregation just like me--prayers that went on and on, praising and thanking God for our blessings, asking for strength and healing, conversing with Him in an endless diatribe of familiar phrases. In later years, at various church or civic functions I feared being asked to "lead us in prayer" because I knew I would be expected to deliver in that same rhetorical tone a prayer I might feel in my heart but could not find words for in my head. You likely will consider that strange for a wordsmith like me, but it's true. It is one of the reasons that I embraced the Catholic faith without ever abandoning completely my Southern Baptist roots.

I'm not sure if it is the same today, but one of the first Instructions in the Catholic Church is to learn the "Our Father" which I already knew as the "Lord's Prayer". There was a slight change in the ending, but I could deal with that. It was poetry, as were the remaining required prayers--the "Hail Mary", the "Glory Be", the "I Believe", the "Confiteor". They are the prayers that I turn to today in times of joy, in times of stress. Yes, I memorized them, and the words come to me like poems. I don't have to think about it, I know I am pleasing God. That's powerful praying.