I never know who “they” are, but “they” say you should start reading to your baby very young. In-utero, if possible. When they are very small, long before the sounds make words, the rhythm of your voice is soothing. It lulls them to sleep. It connects them to the sound of you. While they are small enough to be still in your arms and not try to escape, the joy of reading takes root in them. Meanwhile, word by word, something like language begins to take shape. It starts out as white noise, but one day, long after they’ve begun squirming out of your arms, they are speaking to you. My not-quite-1-year-old is at the jumping out of the chair stage. And yet, his babbling has begun to sound like actual speech: Mama; Dee-Dah (Daddy); Banana; and something that sounds alot like “that was my cracker, *&%%&#!”
Meanwhile, the big kid (who is not quite 3) has taken to whispering. She doesn’t quite understand that she should be whispering something. She puts her mouth to our ears and goes Sp-ha-sh-sp-sp-sh-sp-sh. Or as my husband calls it, Parseltongue. It tickles. It is gibberish. And it is about the sweetest thing ever. [I am banking it for the not-too-distant future when she is a bratty teen-ager, shouting abuses at all who will hear.]
I think perhaps prayer is this sort of noise to God. For all we feel the need to articulate our desperate needs, our fondest hopes, our most shameful wrongs, what God hears coming from our direction is the simple noise of the heart… Over time, prayer shapes the Holy within us, until some future day when we can understand it, word for word. It tickles the very ear of the Spirit, and falls back on us, some unarticulated wonder.
Take joy, my God, in what you hear,
May it be a sweet, sweet sound in your ear…