Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (The Value of Repetition in our Prayer Lives)

August 30, 2011

If I could hide our book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, I would!  This is currently the most-requested book by Abby.  And by most-requested I mean, it is the ONLY book she wants to read right now. To be honest, I tried to remove this book a few times from our special reading chair box and return it to her bookshelf –hoping for a reprieve.  I should know, though, that I cannot outwit a two year old!  With in seconds of realizing Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is missing, she hops to her bookshelf grabs it, and hops back into my lap, proudly holding her prize.  What can a mother do, but read it one more time?  “A told B and B told C, I’ll meet you at the top of the coconut tree.  Whee said D, to E, F, G…”

As a former teacher, I understand the value of repetition for children.  I know that re-reading a book like this one, full of fabulous rhythm and rhyming words, is an important part of a child’s development. The repetition provides a means of understanding our language and of learning to read.  Not to mention Chicka Chicka Boom Boom’s plot is about the alphabet trying to make it up the coconut tree without the tree toppling over.    I know that repeatedly exposing Abby to seeing the letters and to hearing the letters helps her grasp language, writing, and speaking.  Even though, I understand the value of repetition, I still want to avoid it sometimes.

The same is true with our prayer.  Our prayer needs a rhythm– a time, a place, a space–that is consistent.  A rhythm that is so familiar it can be repeated over and over again without much thought, similar to the way I can repeat Abby’s favorite book without the book in front of me.  It is something I know and she knows– we are both familiar with it. 

Our prayer also involves repetition.  Repetition of scriptures, of certain themes, of recurring struggles.  Returning to a certain scripture, for instance, that consoles us or that causes tension is a way of furthering our understanding of God and of deepening our understanding of what God is saying to us.  As we return to a prayer or a scripture again, God gifts us with new insights or re-affirms a previous understanding.

Repetition in our prayer life is not always easy.  At times we get bored.  Other times we say, “I have already done this, what else can I learn?”   When we do not risk returning to something in prayer again, we often risk losing an opportunity for God to speak to us.  Because as you and I both know, we do not always get it the first time.  We need the repetition, just as Abby does.  Eventually, the insight, the grace, the affirmation, the answer, that God was offering us will permanently stick, and we will become as familiar with God’s gift to us as I am with Abby’s favorite book. 

What do we need to return to in our prayer?  What scripture?  What theme?  What moment of consolation?

P.S.  For those of you who do not know the book, you can watch Chicka Chicka Boom Boom here. 

Becky is an Ignatian-trained spiritual director, retreat facilitator, and writer. She is the author of the Busy Lives and Restless Souls (March 2017, Loyola Press) and The Inner Chapel (April 2020, Loyola Press). She helps others create space to connect faith and everyday life through facilitating retreats and days of reflection, through writing, and through spiritual direction. With nearly twenty years of ministry experience within the Catholic Church, Becky seeks to help others discover God at work in the every day moments of people’s lives by utilizing St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises and the many gifts that our Catholic faith and Ignatian Spirituality provide.

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1 Comment

  1. Joan Kappes

    Great reflection! Yes, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom was a daily favorite at our house too! Prayer? Prayer includes scripture, mantras, and much more. For me, prayer is also the allowing of Divine Presence to surround me throughout my day. There are usually no words to this “living prayer”- just an ever growing “Oneness” and awareness with the Creator. It’s a habit that has taken some time to develop, but now that I have it, I wouldn’t want to live a day without it.

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