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 “Call everyone home for prayers,” my mom would tell whoever was finishing up supper dishes (think eleven people and no dishwasher). That child would would take her direction literally and go to the door, open it, and from the threshhold call out, “Hatches, come home for prayers!”  Their voice carried down the street and bounced off the housetops. (Yes, I was probably one of the culprits–but I don’t believe so.)

The rest of us were usually at the neighborhood park, and if we missed the summons, friends would pick up the chant, “Hatches, prayers!”

There was no mockery, and usually they added, “Can you come right back?”

I was blessed to come from a family that prayed regularly. Each night we’d kneel in a circle in the living room and dad would call on someone to lead us.

There were a few things that stand out in my memories of those prayers:

  1. We were not to “sit on our haunches.” That meant, we knelt UP, no resting on the back of our calves. If it were dad’s turn, we knew we were in “for the long haul.” Some of us found that by placing the toes of one foot on the ankle of the other that was elevated by its toes, we could take a break midway without losing too much height.
  2. It was not wise to open our eyes and look around. If we did, we probably would catch someone else looking around too. Then one of us would start to giggle. Before long, the whole circle would be trying to swallow giggles, even Mom. Of course not everyone was amused and often it just meant the prayers started over.
  3. The children made the best prayer-givers. They could name everyone in the family in one breath (actually one word: Daddymommyterrysusanjanastanrichardamymarileenanetteandshirley), and also bless our grandparents before dad had a chance to scratch his belly.
  4. It became not unknown through the years for mom to comment, “Is somebody missing?” (It’s like the blooper in the church newsletter about choir practice: “For those of you with children, and don’t know it, a nursery will be provided.”) When my mom looked for a missing child, we came to expect another brother or sister would be “coming” within a year.

Night prayers were not the only gathering. At some time during my teen years, our parents began holding morning prayers and scripture reading. Dad left for work at 6:00 a.m. so at 5:30 he’d turn up the stereo on some big band record, and call from the top of the stairs, “Good-Morning! Come for scriptures and prayers.” I didn’t believe sane people could be that cheerful that early. Now I’m the same way.

We emerged like walking dead, propped against each other on the couch in the family room and squinted at the verses until it was our turn to read. By then the formal kneeling in a circle for prayers requirement had relaxed and we were allowed to collapse against the nearest piece of furniture. Sometimes we stayed awake.

One late night my two brothers returned home together to find a younger sister had fallen asleep on the couch in the family room. They decided to play a trick on her. They knelt down and nudged her, “Wake up, scriptures are over, it’s your turn to pray.”  Dutifully she slid to the floor, not opening her eyes enough to see that there wasn’t anyone else in the room, and before they could explain the joke, she began, “Dear Heavenly Father.” All they could do was to kneel with her and let her continue.