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Popsicle Sticks

Updated: Apr 20, 2022

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.  So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people . . Galatians 6:10 NASB

It was a brisk fall morning with a hint of rain in the air.  I was delivering fruit and salsa to church for a brunch I wouldn’t attend.  While decluttering, I had come upon a plastic baggie of popsicle sticks.  Good memories of these sticks came to mind, so I popped them into my bag for the trip to church.

On each popsicle stick was written the name of a family member.

While driving along quiet streets, I drew out popsicle sticks, one by one.  My middle grandson.  I prayed for him, “Father, may Your name be holy in him, may Your kingdom come in him, may Your will be done in Him here on earth as in heaven.”  And so forth through the Lord’s prayer up to “deliver him from evil”.

In 30 seconds of prayer, I had such a sensation of love for him, and of the Lord’s regard for him, that tears came into my eyes.  (Best to do this on quiet streets.)

I pulled out another stick.  My oldest grandson.  There were about 25 sticks in this bag – amazing how I pulled out two grandsons first!  And then a nephew, a brother-in-law, my sister, my father-in-law and so on.

Those popsicle sticks and the Lord’s prayer are a useful discipline.  As I pull out a stick and read a name, an impression of that person pops into my mind, with feelings – maybe tenderness or longing or worry.  But I start a prayer for them – “May Your name be holy” – and my feelings are eclipsed by an impression of our Lord and His starting point for human well-being – honoring God and submitting to His rule.

I like to think of our “daily bread” as everything earthly – food, money, housing, friendship, jobs, school admissions, health and healing, legal troubles.  Much of my prayers would naturally begin and end on that one line: “Give us this day our daily bread”.  The most common prayer request coming to our prayer team is physical healing.  And God is eager to hear and answer those prayers, in the context of honoring Him as God.  That’s another version of “Seek first the kingdom, and all these things will be added to you” for “your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”  Matthew 6:34, 33 NASB

When I come to “Forgive give us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us”, it can feel a little strange.  Mostly, I admire people and can’t really conceive of them having sins.  Not as I understand my own sin.

The conditionality here is troubling – forgive us . .  in the same way we forgive.  Oh no, not like that!  Lingering bitterness, grudges, distance, outright hostility.  Maybe others have the same struggle? I find myself adding: Lead them to fully forgive those who sin against them or Make them rich in mercy.

I once heard a story about Mother Teresa.  She was handed a dying infant and begged to pray.  Mother Teresa cradled the little one and prayed the Lord’s prayer.  Does that seem strange?  What would I pray for a dying infant?  What could I pray for a dying baby that isn’t in the Lord’s Prayer?

When I made a habit of popsicle stick prayer, after a couple of weeks of praying daily for each member of my extended family, I had an appalling thought: “I never loved them!”  That was a sort of good but awful place to be.  The Lord’s prayer also enforced a sort of equality of prayer.  I didn’t pray longer for those I loved best, or in greater detail for those I knew well.  I covered everything for everyone.

One of the last popsicle sticks I drew out on my way home from church had my dad’s name on it.  Dad’s in heaven with Jesus now.  What do I do with his popsicle stick?  The kingdom of God has already come for him!  I couldn’t bring myself to throw it in the trash.  So I wrote my newest grandson’s name on it.  The cycle of life.

Our Father, who is in heaven May Your name be holy May Your kingdom come and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us Lead us not into temptation Deliver us from evil. Luke 11:2-4 , Matthew 6:9-13

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