By Barb Arland-Fye
Four inches of snow covered our house’s deck and driveway so I joined my husband in snow-shoveling duties and cleared the deck, literally, the morning of Oct. 30. “That could be your exercise for the morning,” Steve suggested. I also pray as part of my morning exercise routine but had not finished the prayers after hoisting the last shovelful of snow over the deck.
Directly below our house, just beyond an alley-sized road, is “Fye Park.” That’s what we call the lot we purchased from neighbors who moved out of the area. The empty lot maintains an open view of the Mississippi River in all of its various moods.
Wearing Steve’s garden boots over a pair of thick insulated socks, I trudged to Fye Park to walk while finishing prayer intentions for a growing list of people. Absorbed in naming the people who needed prayers, I walked up and down the lot, creating visible rows that resembled a plowed field.
At the end of the lot, I paused to survey Fye Park and smiled to see the physical evidence of my prayers, marked in boot prints row after row. These prayer intentions are a labor of love. Sometimes I dread starting the list because it takes time and patience. I don’t want to leave anyone out!
My dilemma reminded me of a wonderful book I read last year titled “The Prayer List” by Catholic author Jane Knuth. She shared a story about inheriting a prayer list from her Aunt Kay. Jane’s list grew to become unmanageable. “First, I wrote down everyone in the family who was struggling with something. Looking it over, I felt bad about leaving people off, so I filled in the rest of the family, too, whether they needed it or not. I have a big family, and this was a long list,” Jane wrote.
We must be twins, I thought, because we feel the same way about our prayer list. God seems to be nudging me, though, to put my prayer petitions in writing and reflect on each name daily. But praying the list daily in my head has become a ritual that I hope builds up my compassion muscles, just as the exercise builds up my physical muscles. The other day, a life guard at the Y where I swim asked me, “How many laps do you swim?” I told him, “I don’t count them,” but didn’t offer an explanation about the prayer routine.
Back to Fye Park for the rest of the story: I had not finished my prayer list after reaching the end of the lot that snowy morning. I trudged back to the house and made a path around the yard to complete it.
Inside the house, Steve said, “I didn’t hear anymore shoveling and wondered where you were. Then I looked out the window and saw all of these rows of tracks in Fye Park. I thought someone was going to think I put you on a forced march!”
Let people think whatever they choose. The snow melted, erasing the boot prints, but the prayers remain in my heart.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at firstname.lastname@example.org)