Blue spring flowers on the Cathedral grounds

Here we are, at the beginning of Lent, the 40 Days where we can metaphorically replicate Christ’s sacrifice and withdrawal. I often wonder, what did Christ pray in the wilderness for 40 days? The Lord’s Prayer?  Psalms? Extemporaneous prayer? Did he just talk with our Father?

This question always reminds me of my first day of student teaching. I was fortunate to learn from an experienced teacher of 30+ years. I’ll always remember that when I walked into the classroom she greeted me and said, “We want Robert to recite the Gettysburg Address for you.” Robert, who had special needs, proudly stood up. The class respectfully focused on him and he recited the entire address flawlessly while the rest of the class mouthed the words with him. It was very impressive; BUT, in my oh-so-modern approach to education, I was taken aback by the idea of memorization. I thought, we don’t make children memorize anymore, so why is she having these fifth graders all memorize the Gettysburg Address?

After class I asked the teacher why she had the entire class memorize the Gettysburg Address. She said, “For two reasons.” One: for special needs children that are mainstreamed (the word at that time), they can accomplish something that the other children can do. Robert, she said, was the first one to memorize the whole address and he had an opportunity to shine every time he recited it. Two: she told me about students of hers who came back from World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam to tell her that in foxholes, lonely locations, and other times far from home, they recited the Gettysburg Address and it had gotten them through the tough times.

Jesus was in some tough times in those 40 Days and perhaps he recited today’s Psalm reading, Psalm 86:1-11. It powerfully captures a prayer that we can use to call out to God in these 40 Days. What do you think?

Bow down your ear, O Lord, and answer me,

for I am poor and in misery.

Keep watch over my life, for I am faithful;

save your servant who puts his trust in you.

Be merciful to me, O Lord, for you are my God;

I call upon you all the day long.

Gladden the soul of your servant,

for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,

and great is your love toward all who call upon you.

Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer,

and attend to the voice of my supplications.

In the time of my trouble I will call upon you,

for you will answer me.

Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord,

nor anything like your works.

All nations you have made will come and worship you, O Lord,

and glorify your Name.

For you are great; you do wondrous things;

and you alone are God.

Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth;

knit my heart to you that I may fear your Name.