Informant- Dinner prayer: “God bless this food which now we take and do us good for Jesus sake.”
Interviewer- Do you add or take away things when repeating the prayer?
Informant- I always keep the beginning, but I add specific stuff at the end. Never more than a short phrase
Interviewer- Where did you learn this prayer?
Informant- My father shared it with me at a young age at church. I think it was a little rhyme on a church prayer cube in the kid’s section. You could roll the cube and read different prayers but we found the one that we like the best and it stuck with us.
Interviewer- Is your variation of the prayer particularly important to you?
Informant- It reminds me of my family but honestly I just like the prayer because it rhymes (laughing). I really prefer praying with rhymes
Background- The informant feels a connection to this prayer because her parents showed her the rhyme when she was younger and it has become a habit. She remembers and repeats this prayer because she prefers to says prayers that rhyme. This prayer is important to her because it reminds her of her close-knit family dynamic.
Context- This prayer is performed before at the dinner table before eating. The informant explains that the family members held hands in a circle and one family member repeats the prayer. The informant is an only child with two parents. The family is Christian and worships at a Lutheran Church. They live in Gastonia, North Carolina.
Thoughts: Prayer is a part of religious folklore that allows for much multiplicity and variation. It is interesting how each person speaks and prays to God in their own way. The informant shares that she speaks to god closely through rhyming. This shows how prayers and give thanks for food can vary across families. Christians usually pray before eating the food and mainly at the dinner meal.
Context: The informant (DB) is a first generation immigrant from Germany; her mother is from Silesia, Germany, and her father is from what was previously known as East Prussia, so she is fluent in both German and English. She was raised Christian but does not consider herself very religious. DB grew up in Orlando, Florida, has two kids, and currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Our conversation took place while eating quesadillas for lunch our home in Atlanta. The informant heard this nursery rhyme from her mother, who heard it from her mother, who heard it from her mother. She values it because it’s “such a simple yet sweet prayer that any child can understand.” DB remembers “Ich bin klein” as the one solitary moment she shared with her mother before bed; despite their busy life and large family, they were always able to regroup and return to each and God at the end of the day.
Personal thoughts: Popular Christian prayers tend to involve long sentences or invoke complex biblical concepts, which can be especially confusing for children. Take the Lord’s Prayer, for instance – one line reads: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” An 8-year-old has no grasp on temptation or evilness. Although these kinds of prayers are touted to be family friendly, many times children will simply recite them word-for-word without actually being able to fully understand what they are saying. The beauty of the “Ich bin klein” prayer is that it begins by reinforcing the innocence and simplicity of child (“I am small / my heart is pure”), which are words a child can easily grasp, and ends with an affirmation that the child reciting the prayer loves Jesus (“So no one will live in my heart by Jesus alone”). Bam. Easy. No mumbo jumbo about debts and trespassing – just an affirmation of a child’s purity and love for Jesus.