Prayer and the Bicycle

To a ten year old boy, there is scarce difference between wants and needs. Thus when my best friend wobbled proudly by on his new bicycle, my want immediately became a need.

With all my persuasive arguments in order, I confidently approached my father. If I had a new bike, I could run errands to the store much more quickly; the daily run to the post office would bring the mail to our door in a more timely fashion; no more dawdling coming home from school for lunch or being late with chores. Not a selfish reason in the lot, I thought with satisfaction.

It didn't take Dad long to refute my logic with an illogical statement of his own.

"No money", he said, and went back to carving out an axe handle.

Money? Well, I knew one had to fork over ten cents for a soda pop and chocolate bar at the local store, but that was easy to come by. A couple of empty bottles from the roadside or in the bushes along the stream took care of that need. I didn't recall ever going to bed hungry, voluntarily anyway. A big garden, a porker in the pen, fish from the lake and a deer or two took care of that quite nicely. Nor did I harbor any shame for wearing short pants and running barefoot in the summer, or wearing pacs with the tops laced tightly over the legs of my Humphrey breeches in the winter. The house let a fair amount of cold draft filter in, but the wood stoves kept it comfortable. No money for a bicycle? I was astounded.

A quick scan of the Eaton's catalogue confirmed Dad's terse statement. A beautiful ballooned tired bike, double cross bar, light on the fender, motorcycle style handlebars - a boy's dream: $29.95. Sears and Roebuck had bikes costing less than that, but ordering one from there created another problem; how to get it across from Maine into New Brunswick without the local Customs officer knowing it. Obviously, it would take a lot of empty bottles either way.

No use trying to convince dad. He never minced his words. But I had a back-up plan.

Every evening before climbing into the big straw filled tick and snuggling deep beneath the blankets, prayer was mandatory.

"Now I lay me down to sleep/I pray the Lord my soul to keep/If I should die before I wake/ I pray the Lord my soul to take". Then followed a wish for blessing on all the family, aunts, uncles, cousins, the dog and even starving children in Africa, though I privately wondered if that might be wasting a good prayer. Why not substitute them for a small request for me? Surely the Lord would understand my need to be more efficient in my daily chores.

So began a little ritual. Each night I would conclude with asking the Lord to bless all those named, and if he saw fit to bestow a small blessing on me in the form of a bicycle, a better boy wouldn't be found in two counties. Each morning I would arise early and make a complete circle of the house, fully expecting to see a shiny new bike leaning against the wall. Frequently I would take a quick look in the barn or shed just to be sure a little joke was not being played on me.

The summer dragged on without any tangible results. Occasionally mother would inquire into my morning movements, but I sort of evaded the question.

Our Eaton's catalogue became a bit dog eared and smudged from so much time looking at that bike, hoping somehow it would jump off the page into our kitchen. I didn't really think it would; but, I bet Mandrake the Magician in the weekend comic section of the newspaper could have done it.

Toward the end of August, I was beginning to have some doubts about this prayer bit. I knew the Lord had a lot of requests to look after, but you'd think in a couple of months he might have cleared up the backlog. And I had no other back-up plan.

Imagine my surprise when the man who drove the mail truck stopped at our driveway one afternoon and hauled a big package from the back of his half-ton with the exact picture of that bike in the Eaton's catalogue on the side. It never occurred to me that the Lord would use the mail to deliver a bike. But I was not about to question His method, just revel in the joy of having my prayers finally answered.

It didn't take long to tear open the box and lay out the different parts. Bikes then were much simpler to assemble than today's complex machines, so within the hour it was all together, right down to the light on the front fender complete with batteries. I could hardly wait to show Dad.

When he arrived home, he found a beaming boy standing beside the bike at the end of the driveway. "Now where in the world do you suppose that came from?" he said, scratching his head.

I just grinned. That night after blessing all the cousins, I said, "Lord, I'm sorry I had doubts about you getting around to my request. Thank you very much. And if you can do something about those starving children in Africa, maybe mother wouldn't make me eat all those vegetables on my plate. She says they would love to have them. Well Lord, please take those peas and carrots and turnips and send them to Africa. Goodnight."