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Penny's Prayers

Most nights before our kids go to bed, we have a family prayer time. It usually begins with William prostrate on the floor (who knows how he decided that the best way to pray is face to the ground and eyes closed). He usually says, "Thank you for our day. Thank you for our family." Then he adds another line that rhymes. Something like, "Palalooakay. Moozywoozyramily." We can't vouch for his sincerity.

Penny almost always defers. "No, you first Mom.... Now your turn, Dad."

So she prays last.

Backtracking a minute, most nights at dinner we ask our kids to share one thing about their day. Penny often defers here too. "Maybe after," she says, by which she means, "Maybe after I'm done eating." We cajole. I've learned a few prompts: "Who had show and tell today? What did they show?" or "What did you do at table time?" But she's usually reluctant to tell us much, and we've often wondered about it. Does she have trouble remembering? Is it hard for her to string so many words together? Does she feel self-conscious?

Whatever it is, it all falls away when it's Penny's turn to pray. She bows her head and squeezes her eyes shut and launches in. She talks and talks and talks. We hear her saying thank you, but she also just rambles on about whatever comes to mind. So we might overhear something like, "Thank you for our day and William got a fever today and school was fun and we ate chocolate cake. Chocolate cake! And thank you for our family and all the people and Nana and Pop Pop coming this weekend and a fair! Animals at a fair! And help us all love. Amen."

She looks up, a little bashful, a little proud of herself. And I've had the thought that she's modeling prayer to me, modeling what it looks like to let go of rules about prayer and instead to pour out my thanks and the exciting aspects of my day and the ways I need help and anything else that pops into my mind.

Last night, when she finished, I asked, "Penny, when you pray, what are you doing?"

She looked at me as if she didn't understand, or perhaps wondering why it was that I didn't understand. "Talking to God, Mom."

Talking to God.

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