1) Do you think there is value in memorizing particular prayers or should prayer always come "from the heart"?
2) Tell about a time when you found yourself calling to mind a familiar hymn or relied on a memorized prayer or lines of scripture when your own words failed you.
"My mouth will proclaim the Lord's praise, and every living thing will bless God's holy name forever and always." - Psalm 145: 21 (CEB)
Psalm 145 is an alphabetic acrostic poem, which means that each verse is keyed to a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This device is an aid for memorization.
After Christmas one year I drove five hours to visit my father, who had Alzheimer's. He was then in a care home with twenty other people whose memories were also shot.
He was asleep when I arrived, which was not unusual. Previous experience had taught me it was better not to wake him, but to wait and let him wake of his own accord. A good nap often restored a bit of lucidity, if briefly.
So I sat and waited. To pass the time I sang Christmas carols. I was also hoping that the familiar words and tunes might summon him to consciousness. He slept on, peacefully so far as I could tell.
When I ran out of carols, I tried a few familiar verses from the Bible, like the 23rd and 121st Psalms. He did not stir. Since I seemed to be conducting a sort of worship service for the sleeping (not the first time), I moved to the Lord's Prayer. My Dad had taught me the Lord's Prayer when I was a child. We said it together most nights before I went to sleep.
As I prayed the Lord's Prayer, I noticed his hands at his sides had begun to float slowly upward like two giant fluttering moths. "Forgive us our debts . . ." His hands came together -- praying hands. "For thine is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen." As I said those last words, he opened his eyes and smiled. He said, "Oh, it's you. What a nice surprise."
We are to write the words of Scripture upon our hearts, said the rabbi, so that when our hearts break, God's word falls into them.
For the precious and fragile threads that connect us one to another, we give thanks, O God. Amen.