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Prayer That Comforts a Parent's Heart

I wish I could figure out how to pray my way through this one, I thought.

By Rick Hamlin, New York, New York

As appeared in

We are labourers together with God. 1 Corinthians 3:9

William got up before dawn to catch his flight. I heard our son hoist his bags, the front door opened and closed, and then I heard him drop the keys through the mail slot, following instructions his mother had left on a note. I hated to hear him go. He's twenty-three years old, I told myself. We'd had a great visit with him. Why feel so sad?

But the ache was still there at breakfast before I did the chores. I wish I could figure out how to pray my way through this one, I thought. When would we see him again? In another three or six months? It seemed a lifetime. He lived two thousand miles away.

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I went into his room and took the old stuffed animals off his bed, stripped his sheets and picked up his towel. In some ways, he still was a child. Independent, with a great job, a nice set of friends and a damp towel on the floor. I gathered everything up and put it in the washer.

I noticed the books on his shelves, the ones we read to him and the ones he read. The progression from Goodnight Moon to Infinite Jest, from Dr. Seuss to Malcolm Gladwell went so fast, but wasn't that what we would have wanted?

It's a good thing, I thought. Soon I would e-mail him some article I'd seen, and he'd forward something he'd read. We were lucky to be able to stay connected through e-mails and texts and phone calls. I spread the clean sheets over the bunk bed, throwing the stuffed animals back to their berth. Thank God, I thought, he hasn't completely outgrown them.

There it was. The prayer I'd been looking for. It had been with me in cleaning the room, doing the laundry, making the bed. The ache had lifted into a sort of gratitude. “To work is to pray” is an ancient monastic saying. I slipped the clean pillowcase on his pillow, thankful for the years, looking forward to the ones ahead.

Give me work, Lord, that lets me pray.

Digging Deeper: 1 Sam. 1:26–28; John 14:12; 1 John 3:1