On Prayer: From the Starry Night of Childhood to the Morning Light of Now

Back in my "office." There's no place like home!

Yesterday, July 9,2013, I wrote:

I’m listening to Barber’s Adagio for Strings conducted by Leonard Bernstein as we fly above the clouds enroute from Phoenix to Houston on the way to the Shenandoah Valley airport via Dulles. It’s going to be a long day.

However, I have dedicated this day in advance to a New Beginning. Instead of dreading a day that begins at 7:30 a.m. in the West and concludes at midnight in the East, I hope to live in the State of Grace that Maya Angelou talked about in yesterday’s post.

Right now I am praying for my family. My husband in Seat 16-A. My son and his family in the greater NYC area. My daughter and her husband in Pittsburgh. My mother and extended family in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and my husband’s family in Virginia and Michigan.

Thank you, God, for each of them. May they be safe, and healthy, and live with ease. May they be grateful for life and may they bear their burdens with integrity and dignity. May they know You love them. May they find and follow Your call for their lives.

Shine through me, O Spirit of Peace, and light on all I love.

In the words of Anne Lamott: “Thank you, Jesus. Wow. Help!”

The United Airlines steward is coming toward me now. I send him blessing. He will offer my seatmate and me drinks. I order tomato juice. He gives me ice and the whole can. Thank you.

I learned to pray as a child. We prayed at every meal and at bedtime. Here’s a short excerpt from my memoir Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World
about my childhood prayers:

I’m interested in hearing about prayer and you. Were you taught prayers? Do you you pray on planes? What connection is there between prayer and action in your life?

My New Beginning today? Go buy some fresh vegetables and stock the refrigerator with good food.

What’s your New Beginning? Log in here.  I’m off to go read what you have logged in the last few days.

64 Days Until Blush Launches


Shirley Showalter


  1. Shirley B Yoder on July 10, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Yes, I often use the quiet immobility of an airplane as a time to pray. It is so simple to put one’s head back and close the eyes. Non-intrusive. I remember a flight in 2007 when a group of 30 Arab men boarded the flight and one sat beside me. They were young and strong. Through very broken English I learned they were in the United States for training as a parachute search and rescue team. Here I was up close and personal with these men from Qatar. President Bush had just declared that if you were not for the US, you were against us. Qatar was a country that supported the “war on terror.” In a sense he and his team were putting their lives on the line and might one day protect “me”.

    I felt drawn to silently pray for the one beside me. It wasn’t a prayer of words, and he did not know I was praying. I simply held the “stranger” in the light of God’s mercy and grace. I imagined he had a mother who was also praying. What I saw was a young man caught up in my country’s war. I had no words, only feeling and a keen sensing of the moment.

    • shirleyhs on July 10, 2013 at 4:12 pm

      Shirley, thanks for this moving story of prayer on a plane. I can imagine how poignant that moment was for you. Nothing humanizes an “other” so much as thinking about a mother in prayer for him.

      And, you are right, prayer can happen without words, very unobtrusively. Without ceasing.

  2. Laurie Gray on July 10, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    I’ve moved away from the tradition way of praying that I was raised with into an attitude of gratitude, affirmations, and acting with greater awareness and intention. I do some meditation, but more contemplation.

    I do have a nighttime prayer ritual with my daughter, though, that we’ve done for years (she’s 11 now). First I say, “Now I lay me down to sleep/ I pray the Lord my soul to keep/ the angels watch me through the night/ until I wake with morning light. Amen.” Then she affirms, “I am grateful. I am kind./ I create what’s on my mind./ Perfect health…. Prosperity…./ My world reflects the change in me.” Then we sing the first 2 verses of Taps (Day is done. Gone the sun from the hills, from the lake, from the sky. All is well. Safely rest. God is nigh. Go to sleep, peaceful sleep. May the soldier and sailor God keep, on the land and the deep, safe in sleep) Then we sing a verse just for her (I suppose Victoria Rose needs to sleep so her body can grow. Close your eyes. Have sweet dreams, Victoria Rose).

    • shirleyhs on July 10, 2013 at 6:58 pm

      Victoria Rose is a lucky young woman. Thank you for sharing the ritual you use at night-time. It reminds me of the way my son and daughter-in-law tuck in their children. I know that the feelings of love beget deep peace and good rest. Oh that every child could have this way to go to sleep.

  3. Shirley B Yoder on July 11, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Laurie, I love your accounting of the bed time ritual you and your daughter still have. It brought to mind a time when my oldest son (at about 11 years) fell asleep in his bed before I got home from something or somewhere. He had a note pinned to the blanket he was covered with. It read, “When you get home, wake me up, sing to me, rub my back and pray with me.”

    You can bet I did just that!

    • shirleyhs on July 11, 2013 at 8:38 am

      Shirley, how touching. I hope you kept the note. And surely you have — in your heart. I can see Branson at age eleven. What a sweet, vulnerable time in a boy’s life. Brings tears to my eyes.

  4. Kathleen on July 11, 2013 at 8:20 am

    Yes, I grew up with family prayer and personal prayers. A few days ago I was blessed to hear my father-in-law pray aloud, including each of his children’s families by name. My own parents pray aloud for each of us, and others, too. I find it a powerful experience to be prayed for by persons who love me – out loud – in their presence.

    And yes, I pray on airplanes and wherever I find myself waiting. I use a personal version of the lovingkindness prayer, similar to the one you note above. I go through each person in my family, extended family, friends, special requests, etc. depending on the length of the wait – offering: Peace, health, and well-being be with _____; may they be safe and free from harm; may they encounter Grace today.

    • shirleyhs on July 11, 2013 at 8:44 am

      Kathleen, I have encountered grace today — in your comment. Yes, I too was adapting the Loving Kindness meditation. And it was good to be reminded of the power of prayers that include the name of the loved one in their physical presence also.

      One of the blessings a parent can give to a child is the promise of daily prayer.

      And when that parent dies, part of the grief is knowing that those prayers are no longer coming from this side of eternity. Shirley’s image above of the note, however, is a comfort. We can say to our departed parent, “When you come home, wake me up.”

      That’s what life is about, getting awakened by love.

  5. Kathy McLellan on July 11, 2013 at 11:32 am

    HIgh above or with feet planted on the ground, I find myself in an attitude of prayer throughout the day. Formal prayer and devotions were a part of my life growing up. We welcomed the day as a family around the breakfast table. As young children we prayed “Thank you for the world so sweet, thank you for the food we eat, thank you for the birds that sing thank you God for everything”. A heart of thankfulness took root and soon we were encouraged to add our own words of prayer from our hearts. At supper or before bed we gathered to once again read the word and pray. We would often kneel around the couches in the living room as a family and go around the room each having a turn to pray. Our childhood evening prayer was, “Jesus tender shephard hear my, bless thy little lamb tonight. Through the darkness be thou near me keep me safe till morning light”. Again prayers soon emerged for our hearts and became more personal.
    I find myself praying for those I see on my way to work. A young mom with a toddler, a down cast looking soul, maybe a person I know who passes me on my way.
    I still like to kneel in formal prayer when my heart is so full of thanks or requests that it only seems fitting, but it’s throughout the day that I can talk with Jesus, share my day, pray for those who come to mind, pray in the moment…for that moment. My on going learning in prayer is to be still and listen to God as He speaks to me during prayer time. That takes discipline on my part.

    • shirleyhs on July 11, 2013 at 12:47 pm

      Kathy, what lovely, rich remembrances and practices you have. I can identify with each of these experiences. It makes me wonder how often a stranger may have prayed for me also. How much better our world would be if we were always as mindful of each other as we are when we are in prayer.

      Thank you so much for sharing these stories. I love the “thank you for the birds that sing. Thank you God for everything.” I think of it in the mornings when I sit on the deck, coffee in hand, listening to the little tiny wren warbling her way to God’s heart.

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