Thirsty deer, longing souls, readers’ words on prayer
COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Last week’s column on my grandson Thomas’s question about my prayer life set a new record for reader responses.
Our coffee companions were interested not only in the computer-analogy answer I gave him, however. Several were amazed that I could have any such conversation in the first place with an 18-year-old male university student.
Thelma Rhynas wrote from Ontario:
“Not only is Thomas's question a good one, but one I'm sure all your coffee companions have asked of someone in their lives. I know it's one I've thought about for years, and the answer has never been clear, until now. Thank you and Thomas, for your wonderful yes, scientific-sense-of-wonder question and answer.”
More pointedly, our dentist, Ralph Dubienski, of Springbank, responded:
“As always, Thomas has great questions, a very insightful person. Did you ask him about his prayer life?”
I shared Ralph’s question with Thomas and here’s his response:
“Your grandson's question is wonderful,” wrote Denise Peterson, principal at the Siksika First Nation’s Sequoia School in Gleichen.
“Some years ago, when I was principal of Strathmore Storefront School,” Denise said, “I was fortunate to have a staff member who had worked for a year with Mother Teresa in Calcutta. She told me of a particular morning, when the Sisters and volunteers were in prayer before setting out for their day’s work. When Mother spoke, she shocked and surprised them by saying she didn't feel like praying; instead she said, ‘Today let the work of my hands be my prayer.’”
About prayer as an urgent impulse, Cochrane photo-essayist Jack Blair wrote:
Media producer Ken Fast, writing from Derwent, east of Edmonton, sees such moment-by-moment conversational prayer as a lifetime learning experience. “At times that includes arguing (wrestling) with God,” he said. “Other times, just listening or sensing.”
And still other times, just chanting or singing. Prayer as chanting is something my “adopted” Stoney Nakoda father, the late Jacob House whom I call Ade (pronounced ah-DAY, “my father”) taught me back in the 1960s while I was living on the Big Horn Stoney Reserve west of Rocky Mountain House.
On occasion, he would accompany me on the hour-and-a-half drive into town over the dusty, then-unpaved David Thompson Highway. When we were not otherwise chatting, he would tap rhythmically on the dashboard with his fingers and softly sing a traditional First Nations prayer song to pass the time.
This memory of Ade, together with Thomas’s and your responses, reminds me of a line from the Hebrew Scriptures. I’ll close for now with the opening words from Psalm 42: “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.”
© 2012 Warren Harbeck