Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Letters to Dad

For Anne Ylvisaker, ideas come from asking questions. 

Ylvisaker, posed a deep question to her aunt, “What was it like to lose your father while in elementary school?”  In the conversation, Anne’s aunt replied she had written a letter to her father before he died.  However when replaying the conversation in her head, she didn’t remember correctly and thought that her aunt wrote a letter to her dead father after he died.

So Anne wondered, “What would a nine year old write to her father after he died?”

She put herself into the mind of that nine year old and wrote a letter.  Sadly, Anne lost her own father not long before and missed telling him all about the details of everyday life, so that’s what she had the nine-year-old write about. 

Anne wondered where the story might lead, and then soon had enough letters to compile a book – which she titled, Dear Papa.

My own eight-year-old daughter and I just finished the book as part of her bedtime routine.  As I was reading Dear Papa to my daughter, one letter struck a cord with me.

Dear Papa,
Happy Birthday to you! I knew right away when I woke up this morning that it was your birthday.  I looked at everyone’s face at breakfast to see if they remembered….
On the way home, I invited Ian (her brother) to come to my room for a party after school.  We snuck up candles and crackers and milk and taped paper candles to the crackers.  We told 44 things we remember about you.

This particular letter caused me to pause and think, “What if I were to die and my daughter would start writing letters like this to me?  What if when I’m in heaven I can see what is happening on earth and read the letters my daughter is writing?”  This thought brought tears to my eye about the love between a father and his children.  What for the daughter is a simple gesture of writing a letter about what is happening in her life, for a father it is a huge sign of love.

And for the first time I thought, could this be what prayer is like on the receiving end?   To me, it was a realization that my simple thanksgiving prayer that I offer up each day is heard.  It is heard and means more to Him than what I probably give it credit for.

He is crazy about us.  He craves that relationship with us.   It isn’t unlike the love between parents and their children, except His love for us is greater.   To make our Father happy we can engage in a simple conversation with prayer. 

I’m going out on a limb here, but maybe He knows that the physical distance between us is hard, that the lack of audible response puts doubt instead of hope in our hearts – and so when we pray it is backing up our faith and it sends a powerful message to Him that we believe. 

So how do we pray?  Before I answer, re-read the letter in italics above. 

What did you notice?  What I noticed is that the letter begins by remembering the Dad’s birthday, and how excited she was for him.  The letter centers on the cool things about their dad.  Interestingly (or coincidently) enough my birthday was just last week, and my daughter wrote the 10 best things she liked about me.   It touched my heart.  So when you pray, I think an important component of prayer is thanking God for our blessings and listing off things that are cool about your Father.

If you look at prayer in the perspective of a parent child relationship - a heartfelt prayer is best.  Think about it.  When I ask my child how school was, I usually get the same response, “Good”.   What I hope to hear is, how recess was, what did they learn, and if they struggled with anything.  I don’t get frustrated with the one word automatic reply, but it sure is fun hearing about the details of their world.   

Prayer is important, especially because I feel the relationship you have with your Father is the most important relationship we have.  I typically don’t share my faith quite so publicly, because of the fear of being judged.  But I looked at prayer in a new perspective, and felt compelled to share it with you. 

1 comment:

  1. Great post Nathan!!

    In my book, prayer is such a hugely personal thing. It would never occur to me to judge how another chooses to pray - as I would not want to be judged for how I choose to pray.

    For me, prayer is like you reference - a kid coming home from school and telling their parent how the day went. I have a very "informal" prayer relationship with God when I am praying individually. I am involve myself enough in the "formal" prayers of (our shared) faith - that when I sit down to talk to God - that's exactly what it is. Talking to God.

    I appreciate your willingness to share what prayer means to you!!