Month of Thanks Giving: Day 16 (Prayer and the Freedom to Choose)

I remember two prayers from my childhood. My father taught me the first one, and I recited it every night before I went to bed. As a small child, I got down on my knees at the side of my bed. As a teen, I said it to myself:

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take

Admittedly, the last two lines left me a little frightened as I climbed into bed following the prayer. What if I died in the middle of the night?

I’ve since seen a gentler version:

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
Angels watch me through the night
and wake me with the morning light

The second prayer was taught to us by my grandmother, the grace we said before eating dinner every night:

graceThis prayer was always followed by a chorus of “itadakimasu,” a word my mother taught us, which is a Japanese form of giving thanks for the meal, all who prepared it, and all that was sacrificed for it.

This is only one example of how my parents gave us the freedom to choose how we would pray, how we would worship. We attended many churches growing up, including Baptist (my father’s religion) and Buddhist (my mother’s religion) and many in between–Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist.

Today, I’m thankful for parents who taught me to pray, who gave me the freedom to choose.

Only when I tried to do the same with my kids did I realize the “letting go” it took for my parents to take the risk I might go in a direction that was not in line with their beliefs. After all, my dad was Baptist, and my mom was Buddhist.

Challenging as it must have been, I’m grateful they gave me this freedom. What they also taught me was acceptance that every person is entitled to believe what they want to believe, regardless of what my wishes may be otherwise.

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