I recently chatted to a priest friend and as we discussed prayer he asked me if was familiar with the ‘Father’s Lap’. I was not. This prayer intrigued me and sounded very appealing. Basically, we all know what it is like to see a young child settle into their parents or loved one’s arms. Most of us have experienced holding a young infant and as they wriggle and squirm and settle into a comfy place in the crook of your arm, or shoulder high, or even under your chin, the child becomes still. We have all seen the images of contentment and peace this embrace gives. The Father’s Lap is a moment of embrace, for us, in the loving arms of God.
This is how it works; you put yourself, as best you can, in the place of the young child. You climb onto the Father’s lap and you settle with Him for a time of stillness, a time of prayer. The tricky part is you are not allowed to talk, move or think of all the things you need to tell him. This is only a place to be, a place where you are held in love, no agenda, no conversation, no distractions. I must admit it sounded totally simple, easy-peasy and I couldn’t wait to try.
The priest asked me to try it for a few minutes and I thought to myself that a few minutes would not be enough. Perhaps I was longing for a little haven of stillness and quiet. Alas it was not to be! I was surprised by my own inability to settle. I knew the scenario well. Being the mum of two young children, I have felt their contentment in a loving embrace, and I looked forward to that, in fact I longed for it. I am an adult yes, but I am never too old to be held.
What a challenge I embarked on. I know I am more anxious than before this pandemic. I know I have a busy life. I know my head if full of stuff, but what I did not know is that I had virtually lost the ability to be silent and still. Even amidst lockdown, when there was nowhere to go and no one to meet, I was restless and distracted.
This prayer has been hard work. To enter into the Father’s love is not the hard part. The hard part is to make myself present with no distractions, no petitions, no list. We all need love and hopefully most of us experience love in our everyday lives. If we are lucky, we experience unconditional love and a love that seeks nothing in return. When I settle myself and allow God to love me, everything is recalibrated, and it is as if I am retuned for the better. I’m still struggling to get past 5 minutes in the Father’s Lap, but I am doing it!
This month we are celebrating the Season of Creation and it strikes me that everyday is a day to celebrate creation, but if we are too busy, too distracted, we might miss what is before our eyes. It is the calm, the stillness, the openness needed to sit in the Father’s Lap, that is also needed to see and appreciate our common home. When I am settled. then I see the early morning dew, hear the bird, watch the flutter of the butterfly, notice the beauty, pick and eat the blackberry, smell the lush wet greenery. These past few months I have enjoyed emptying my head more to be filled anew in the Father’s Lap.
I challenge you to spend a few moments in the Father’s Lap. Maybe you’ll be much better at it than me, but that’s not the key thing about this prayer. The key thing is actually doing it.
Yvonne Rooney is the Pastoral Youth Leader for the Diocese of Derry