Looking back, one particular film quietly fortified us for the turmoil and devastating loss brewing on the horizon of humanity in 2020.
In November of 2019, just before the world turned upside down, It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood made its Hollywood debut, taking hearts captive as Tom Hanks brilliantly portrayed Mr. Rogers.
Recently rewatching with faint but fresh eyes, I recognized the threads of hope woven throughout one man’s life of faith, quietly impacting millions even decades after his death.
Fred Rogers, beloved by children everywhere, believed each child was specially created and loved by God. His life declared this not only as Mr. Roger’s, television star, but in the quiet of his private life.
“Each morning he prayed for his family and friends by name…The prayers continued into his workday.” Hollingsworth recalls him saying, “When I walk in that studio door each day, I say, ‘Dear God, let some word that is heard be Yours…’ That’s my main concern. All the others are minor compared to that.” (JanWhite)
Mr. Rogers believed the most important matters were those of faith, praying through all the practical details of his life and work that required attention and decision-making. He even solicited the prayers of others on occasion—often children—in genuine earnestness and humility.
Prayer, the steadfast life-force of Mr. Rogers, flowed from His deep, intimate relationship with God.
To Mr. Rogers, God was Father, Provider, Friend and Guide. His secret to a successful public life was the consistency of his private life with God. Behind closed doors, he found strength, wisdom and perseverance for each day’s challenges.
His prayers, at least as portrayed on film, were simple but earnest, praying daily for both family and friends by name. Particularly moved by the scene of Mr. Rogers at his bedside, I admired him praying for new friends by name, then remembering each while swimming laps.
As God continues to transform me through trials laced with anxiety, He whittles away at sinful behaviors, false beliefs, and inaccurate but tightly held views of the disciplines of faith—most profoundly—prayer.
Believing petitions must be elaborate and lengthy, prayer often seems intimidating. Sometimes in overwhelm, I quit before I even get started.
But God used the faith of Mr. Rogers to transition my prayer life from complex and convoluted to simple and serene. Finding the “potent-ial” in fewer words was empowering, which seems counter-intuitive but wonderfully liberating!
Adding swimming a few times a week to my workouts last fall, I recalled Mr. Rogers and his daily laps, feeling surprisingly encouraged. As I gained strength enough to make it 25 meters, then 50, I felt a nudge from God to use this time to pray.
Remembering Mr. Roger’s simple prayers, a short prayer emerged.
“Jesus Christ, Son of God, have new mercies on ______, a sinner, saved and beloved by You.”
The closer I get to Heaven, the more I believe in the power of words. (Prov.18:21) Researching these new mercies for which I’m praying, I discovered beautiful truths.
The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies are new each morning. Lamentations 3:23
The Hebrew word for mercy is ḥeseḏ, meaning kindness, lovingkindness, goodness, kindly, merciful, favour, good, goodliness, or pity. The Hebrew word for new is ḥāḏāš, meaning new, new thing, fresh.
So each time I ask for new mercies, this is the width, length, height and depth of what I’m asking in the Spirit!
It took time to get used to praying this type of short breath prayer, but the feeling of praying for many on my heart is invigorating. It leaves me sensing the love and nearness of God in a way I seldom experience.
Maybe it’s because I’m praying for those I would not normally pray: those I’ve been hurt by, whether intentionally or inadvertently.
There’s so much more time to pray using these short but power-packed prayers, I find myself without excuse to pray for “my enemies.”
This is by far the most liberating aspect of praying shorter prayers; I feel the disconnect with God that comes from harboring resentment, unforgiveness, and bitterness melt away.
Mr. Rogers may have impacted millions through his public life and ministry, but I sense his greatest impact was in the myriad minutes spent with His Father, loving others through simple but powerful prayers.
How about you? Does your prayer life seem flat or almost non-existent? Do the hurts inflicted by others seem to be closing in on you, or harder to see past? Has resentment or bitterness crept in? Oftentimes, it’s our heart that’s changed and softened by prayer.
Why not try a breath prayer this week? Here are a few to get you started:
Jesus, perfect all that concerns _________.
Jesus, be __________’s Shepherd, meeting all their needs.
Jesus, Son of God, save _________ to the uttermost.
Try one of these or use your own and see how the Lord meets you. And remember, it’s a good and right thing to start with yourself! If you aren’t praying for yourself, who is?
I will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. Isiah 56:7b
Weekly Health Tip – Diet wars: low-fat, low-carb, keto?
Diet fads come and go; we’ve all heard about people losing weight and gaining it back (>80%). So what’s the answer?
Here are a few tips from the latest scientific research:
- It’s not about any certain diet (there’s no one-size-fits-all.) Rather it’s a lifestyle, so choose one that works for you.
- The most studied worldwide with the greatest long-term health benefits is the Mediterranean diet.
- Quality of calories rather than quantity matters most. Choose foods on the outer perimeter of the grocery store (whole foods) over the aisles (processed foods).
- Limit alcohol and sugary drinks.
- Get moving. Brisk walking for short periods 2-3 times a day keeps metabolism kicking.
- Weighing yourself 1 x weekly helps make tweaks to eating and exercise regimens.
- Find the deeper goal. Looking good in my swimsuit doesn’t yield long-term results. Living longer and healthier, being active with grandchildren, and avoiding chronic disease lead to lasting success.
- Keep it communal—whether joining a gym, outdoor walking or cycling group, peers push us towards success.