I used to think that a “Mantra” had to be a well-known phrase or quote. “Less is more”… “You reap what you sow”… “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”… you know what I mean. I felt odd not to have a go-to phrase that would keep me going or get me going… that is, until the death of my husband’s college roommate a few years ago showed me that I’d had mine all along.
My mantra is a childhood dinner blessing that my father would intone as we were sitting down to dinner. We typically recited the traditional “God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food”… or the expanded version … “By His hands, we are fed, Give us Lord our daily bread”. My sister was pretty young at this point, so it was just my brother and I who would roll our eyes anytime my dad wanted to say grace before the meal… we knew we were in for a paragraph and dinner would be delayed. We weren’t happy about it, but I am so very glad he continued to say this special prayer, because it’s come to bring me great comfort in my adulthood.
Here’s the prayer that he would recite before we were allowed to eat:
That’s really not all that long, is it? Granted, to a 3 y/o and a 5 y/o, I’m sure it felt like an eternity. The quicker prayer was our norm… our tradition… our ready blessing to say before we could dig into whatever mom had made for dinner that night. It’s easy for kids to memorize and recite and it’s the one that’s most widely used so you don’t look like an outsider (or a weirdo) if you go to someone else’s house for dinner and they start saying a blessing before dinner.
I liked hearing the different spin that was added in an episode of The Big Bang Theory, when Sheldon goes home to East Texas and his mother insists that he say grace before eating… “Please know that we are truly grateful for every cup and every plateful”
Still, it’s not that traditional prayer for grace that I recite anytime I need to pray. I use the prayer that my father said… the one we thought he used to “torture” us as small children because it was so long… the one that can still to this day bring his voice into my subconscious. This prayer centers me. This prayer calms my mind. This prayer brings me comfort that no other prayer, no matter the source, has ever done before.
I honestly don’t care why this prayer means so much to me…. I just know that it does. When I recite it, I hear the words that my dad used… I take breaths where he breathed… I mimic his tone and cadence until it sounds (in my head) exactly like him. My dad doesn’t say that prayer anymore. Parkinson’s has challenged his speech and made it difficult to get through this prayer. But when I say that prayer, my dad is whole and young, vibrant and healthy. He’s my daddy who would have given the world for his little girl. The actions of our collective past are irrelevant when I say that prayer… all is right with the world and God will provide.
This prayer has magical powers for me. It brings me comfort from a time in my childhood when nothing bad happened that couldn’t be fixed by my parents. It allows me to believe… and it calms my mind… and it centers me.
It’s the magic of God…