“WE’RE GOING TO CHURCH, DAMN-IT!”* My father, although generally mild-tempered and slow to be provoked, and not prone to cursing, occasionally said these words circa the early to mid-1980’s during our Sunday morning drives to church. We only lived twenty minutes from church, so it was always surprising that in just ten to fifteen minutes of family togetherness in the Cutlass Oldsmobile on the Lord’s day that none of us were in the proper frame of mind for worshipping. Or, come to think of it, perhaps we were precisely in the right frame of mind after all since we all needed to pray and repent for our sins, including those of just that morning. Pretty much by the time we reached the stoplight at one particular intersection, we all sat in silence as my sister and I ceased bickering once Dad erupted.
Last night a neighbor told me that her four-year old son knew The Lord’s Prayer (which they call the “Our Father“) and could say it all by himself. Her son was very proud and excited to say it in their service this weekend, and she was beaming with joy for him. I shared in her joy. But, I began to wonder if my three children knew it.
We changed churches and denominations mid-summer 2012. In our prior denomination, we said The Lord’s Prayer occasionally. In our new church, we say it and the Doxology every Sunday, which I enjoy. Most Sundays Joel drives separately and earlier, so the kids and I are in the car together for a thirty minute drive. So, on the drive to church this morning, I saw an opportunity to review the prayer with the children and to explain the meaning of the components of the prayer.
Cheerfully and optimistically, I asked, “Who knows The Lord’s Prayer and can say it by themselves?” Noah said, “I can!” Sarah Grace said, “I think I can!” And, Samuel, sitting in the far back row of the SUV remained mute. I thought back to one afternoon when the boys were about four years old that Noah volunteered, “Daddy, I love Jesus.” To which Samuel replied dryly, “Well, I don’t like him.” And, Joel rolled with laughter as he impressed upon Samuel that yes, indeed, he did love Jesus. So, I was not surprised that Noah knew the prayer and Samuel didn’t.
We proceeded to say the prayer together, and then to take turns saying it. Noah knew it perfectly. Sarah Grace said “Our Father, hell-ed be your name….” No, Hell is not a topic in this prayer. We straightened out hallowed versus hell-ed. But, primarily within minutes our discussion became a round-robin cacophony of bickering and accusations among the children, particularly as they ganged up on Samuel. “That isn’t what it says! Duh!” “Leave me alone!” “You don’t know it!” “I do too!” “Nuh-uh, so if you know it then say it!” “I know what a trespass is and you are trespassing against me!”
Suddenly very angry and in my decaffeinated state, I raised my voice, “STOP IT! JUST QUIT IT NOW! WE WILL JUST SAY IT WHEN WE ARE IN CHURCH!” They sat in silence and stared out the windows for the rest of the drive. I silently prayed:
Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, forever.
Oh, and we’re going to church, damn-it. Amen.
*Footnote: My father thinks that if he ever said that, then it was in a sarcastic, dark-humored way meant to impress upon us the need to behave. But, he isn’t exactly denying that he said it. 🙂