Last night, as I was trying to fall asleep and saying my prayers (which, admittedly, I sometimes do because I notoriously fall asleep while praying, and was hoping it would help me relax and go to sleep...sorry Lord), I noticed something...
I use some of the exact same words/phrases/verbiage in my nightly prayers as I have since I was a little girl. I don't necessarily go on autopilot with my prayers or anything, but I just noticed that, when I pray for certain things, I use the same words every time. Things like my prayers for protection over my house...prayers that I will sleep restfully and peacefully...prayers for friends struggling with illness, etc. Names and circumstances vary, but the basic format is the same. And this is because it's how I was taught to pray by my mom and dad.
When I was afraid, as children often are when they're left alone at bedtime, my mom told me to pray that God would place a holy hedge of protection around our house and our yard (for the dogs, you know) while we slept. When I wasn't sure how to move past "God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food" at the dinner table, my dad told me to pray that God would bless our food and make it a nourishment to our bodies. When I was afraid of having nightmares, they imparted upon me to ask the Lord to cleanse my mind before I fell asleep so I would not have bad dreams. I still use many of those exact phrases today.
Then I realized that, when my little brother prays, he does and says some of the same things he's said since he was a little boy when we'd take turns praying as kids. (Note that my little bro used to pray all. the. time. Like, before soccer games and such. I used to get annoyed with him about it. I know...what a horrible Big Sister!)
Suddenly, I felt tears in my eyes...tears of gratitude for my parents for instilling prayer habits in my brother and me that we continue at 27 and 30 years old. (Side note: this is not to say that prayer should be habitual or rote...just that praying isn't a bad habit to have, ya know?) My parents taught me to trust that God would watch over me while I slept. That God would heal us if we were sick. That God would give me restful sleep if I talked to Him beforehand and cleared out my mind. Then I thought of my baby niece, and the child that I some day hope to have with my husband, and how I know that my brother and I, along with his wife and my husband, will (and have an obligation to) teach our children in the same way.
The legacy of prayer will continue in our families, and it's my (new) prayer that those children will keep it going.