My earliest experience of prayer was shared with my father, who would kneel beside my bed each night to pray with me – a small child of about three which continued until I was old enough to pray alone. I remember peeking into his face as he closed his eyes, and being in awe that he thought me special enough to pray with. He always said this prayer, as well as teaching me how to pray for things and people in my life.
There are four corners to my bed, there are four angels at my head, and now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.
I always wondered why Daddy wanted us to pray for God to take salt, but when I was old enough to understand that I was praying for God to take my soul, not salt, I became a little overwhelmed. I fully imagined God being really busy one night, listening to everyone’s prayers, and maybe would only hear the last part of mine, and that He would accidentally take my soul before I was really dead. Or worse, would He think I actually wanted to die? Or maybe just saying ‘…if I die…’ was enough to make me die…
I longed for the innocence I’d had. The questions were hard and the possibilities were endless. I was growing up and the world of adult faith was not so simple anymore.
A long time after that, when times changed and I grew both in years and in faith, I carried that small child, kneeling with her father in the sharing of prayer, inside me. I still carry that memory, though it has faded somewhat, the significance, and specialness of it has not.
That childish innocence in faith is something which is hard to maintain. Perhaps that I did lose it somewhere along the way, in my quest for growing up, cynically shedding all the cloaks of childhood along with it. But I grew to realise that it was that simplistic faith that God wanted for me. Not a sophisticated theological kind of faith, but the simple trust mirrored in the eyes of a child looking up to a parent.
A simple, trusting faith.