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The Longest Prayer

My developmentally challenged son couldn’t stop praying…

man's hands clasped in prayer as he prays The Lord's Prayer
Credit: Gokcen Cidam

Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name… I sat next to my son Scotty on the living room couch and stared at the iPad glowing in his lap. A recording of his favorite prayer blared from the speakers. As soon as the track ended, Scotty played it back from the beginning—as he’d done over and over for the past hour. I’d never seen him like this, so focused, so intent, almost as though he was somewhere else.

I glanced at my watch. 1:55 p.m. I had plenty to do before my husband, Steve, a Federal Law Enforcement Special Agent pilot, came home from work. How long would we spend on a single prayer?

As the mother of a son with special needs, I knew the value of patience. Scotty is a 27-year-old man with Angelman Syndrome, a severe neurological disorder that has given him profound developmental delays.

For Scotty, every day is a struggle. He only has a handful of words to express himself, including “mama,” “dada,” and “amen.” Prayer is crucial for my son, one of the few things that brings him peace.

Still, we’d never prayed for so long before. “Maybe we should listen to something else now,” I suggested. I slipped my hand out of Scotty’s and tried to take the iPad.

He shook his head, grabbed my hand, and pressed “play” on the same prayer yet again. His eyebrows furrowed with concentration.

“Who are you praying for?” I asked.

“Dada,” he replied, clearly and without hesitation.

I couldn’t wait to tell Steve when he got home. But that night at dinner, when the three of us sat down to eat, Steve seemed quiet. What was wrong?

“We had an incident on the runway today,” he finally said. “We were up in a Cessna Centurion, ready to land, when the landing gear malfunctioned.” Steve and his crew had had to resort to pumping the gear down manually. Fortunately, they were able to land safely.

“Why didn’t you tell me earlier?” I asked. “When did this happen?”

“In the afternoon,” he said. “Just before 2 p.m.”

Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name… I looked across the table at my son. Somehow Scotty knew.

This article is excerpted from Thin Places: Touching the Edge of Heaven.

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