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Secular Writer Discovers Her Child's 'Prayer Life'

In an article in The New York Times Magazine, writer Dana Tierney described how both she and her husband John had rejected their childhood faith. They had their son Luke baptized to placate their families, but that was it. When Dana's husband went to Iraq as an imbedded reporter, she was understandably fearful. But she was surprised at how calm four-year-old Luke was. She assumed that it was just youthful naiveté, until one day when they were watching a TV interview with a U.S. soldier who was sharing his fears about returning to Iraq. For just an instant, Dana saw Luke form his hands to pray. When she asked him about it, Luke at first denied it, but after he did it a second time, he confessed that he had been praying.

Dana was stunned, partly by Luke's faith, and partly by how his faith allowed him to be calm and her lack of faith caused her to be fearful. She was also embarrassed that her four-year son instinctively knew that praying for his dad was socially inappropriate.

When Dana asked Luke when he first began to believe in God, he said, "I don't know. I've always known he exists." Throughout the article Dana never patronizes believers. At one point she described how many of her non-religious friends feel freed from religion as if they've been liberated from superstition. Not Dana. She feels like she is missing out. As Dana explained, "[My religious friends] have an expansiveness of spirit. When they walk along a stream, they don't just see water falling over rocks; the sight fills them with ecstasy. They see a realm of hope beyond this world. I just see a babbling brook. I don't get the message."

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