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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Family Prayer? Oh, Please!

Coming home in the evening is always an adventure for me. It won’t be hard to explain phenomenon. You see, I have eight children. To be fair, there are only six living at home now and one of those is an adult and gone most of the time. That still leaves five to fill our small home with music, questions, television, arguments, horseplay, laughter, bad attitude, and everything else you can think of. When I step in the door I might have a seven-year-old head butt me in the lower abdomen. Maybe my nine-year-old will take my hand and drag me to her room to see how she rearranged it. My sixteen-year-old might grab the keys she has been waiting impatiently for and take off to her friend’s house. My wife might ask the rhetorical question, “Did you forget to pick up our daughter at dance class again?” and I will have to drive the ten miles back to town to get her. I never know what it’s going to be.
As a general rule our household is not run on a strict schedule. Dinner time can fluctuate several hours. There may be a particular year-old TV series being watched in marathon mode on Netflix. Almost always there is music flowing (or crashing) from my teenage daughters’ rooms.  Two or three computers are in operation at once featuring games or Facebook pages.  Often my twelve-year-old and my seven-year-old will wrestle from one room to another until, invariably, the seven-year-old ends up crying and running to Mom. At any rate, in the evenings the home buzzes like a beehive.
Bed time can be stressful. Depending upon the activities of the evening I have seen bedtime range anywhere from 9:00 pm (rare) to 12:00 pm (also rare, thankfully). Stress levels go up just due to be tired and cranky or because of the coming demands of the next day. But with five kids and two parents each living their own lives the activities and goals at the end of a day can be discordant.
This is why I am all a-wonder each night lately, when, at about 9:00 pm, I call out, “Scripture time! Prayer time!” the seemingly impossible happens.  Usually within a few minutes family members will start straggling into the living room. I would like to paint a picture of smiling children entering the living room in single-file with their arms folded excited for the evening devotion. Well, picturing that in my head and getting the creeps, maybe not that picture. But no worries because that doesn’t happen. They straggle in and plop down in furniture often with looks on their faces that say, “Let’s get this over with.” Some lose patience and leave while waiting for those who make an art of straggling and have to be called back. Some bring their scriptures to earn the bribe, er, treat I give doing so. Eventually all five and the wife arrive. It always feels like we are missing someone so I have to count. After the inevitable, “Can we hurry, please?” we begin.
Wherever we are in the scriptures we each read just five verses and turn it over to the next person. I’d like to say that reverence reigns during the reading, but usually there are side conversations occurring or foot wrestling matches. But sometimes there is some actual scripture discussion or related stories. It’s cool when that happens.  After the last five verses are read kids start dropping to their knees for family prayer. This part of the evening can be a little trying because those on their knees often have to wait for two others to end their discussion before getting to their knees. Then comes question, “Whose turn is it?” I’m always amazed at how long this discussion can take.
“I said the morning prayer.”
“The morning prayer and the evening prayer are on two different cycles.”
“Well, that means it’s your turn.”
“No, I said it last night!” and it goes on.
Eventually the prayer is said and everyone gets up and actually starts preparing for bed. I’m always amazed to see how the “buzzing” has stopped. Somehow making this personal contact with each other (and with God) reminds us that we are “family” and not just roommates.  Sisters go off chatting together.  The younger kids rush off to brush their teeth so that we can read some more “Calvin and Hobbes” together. My wife and I sit for a moment in wonder and thankfulness that the kids, even the teenagers, come to this event each night when called.