THE PRAYER OF THE FROG

THE PRAYER OF THE FROG

Brother Bruno was saying his prayers, but he could hear frogs vying with each other by the intensity of their croaking. He tried to concentrate on his crucifix. In an attempt to drown out the racket he recited his prayers aloud, in an increasingly loud voice, but it was useless. The obsessive croaking of the frogs was upsetting his concentration as he was praying. He exclaimed, “Silence! I am praying!”

He was a saint and his orders inspired respect. At once, nature became silent, just as a fire goes out; and complete silence reigned over the marsh. Brother Bruno noted from his window that the toads had stopped croaking, that the herons’ beaks were closed, and the flies that remained quite still on the reeds no longer dared to buzz in a wind that had fallen silent.

Contented, he returned to his prayers. But another voice was heard an inner voice. This small voice said to him: “And what if God derived greater pleasure in the croaking of the frogs than in the chanting of your psalms?”

Shocked, the saint replied, “But what can God find so pleasurable in the croaking of a frog? And what’s more, at full volume… Why did God invent noise?”

Saint Bruno returned to his window and allowed nature to resume its course. The insects and frogs filled the silence of the night with their subdued rhythm. Bruno listened to this chant, no longer resisting it, and at once his heart beat in accord with the universe.

From that day on he prayed ceaselessly; his days passed in continuous prayer. He was constantly reminded of God by the croaking of the frogs.

Source: Nathalie Leone, Christian Stories of Wisdom,
(Black Dog & Leventhal, 2016) page 166.
First published in France under the title Contes des sages chrétiens
by Nathalie Leone, Le Seuil, 2005.

CONSIDER THIS

Stop resisting. Reframe. Try a different  angle, a minor shift in perspective.

In the new frame the croaking frog was no longer an interruption. In the moment of finally listening to the language of the world around him, Bruno learned for the first time in his life what it really meant to pray. Letting go of his quest for silence, Bruno found a deeper prayer in the noises and the sounds of the world around him.

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COOKIES

Toad baked some cookies. “These cookies smell very good,” said Toad. He ate one. “And they taste even better,” he said. Toad ran to Frog’s house. “Frog, Frog,” cried Toad, “taste these cookies that I have made.”

Frog ate one of the cookies. “These are the best cookies I have ever eaten!” said Frog.

Frog and Toad ate many cookies, one after another. “You know, Toad,” said Frog, with his mouth full, “I think we should stop eating. We will soon be sick.”

“You are right,” said Toad. “Let us eat one last cookie, and then we will stop.” Frog and Toad ate one last cookie. There were many cookies left in the bowl. “Frog,” said Toad, “let us eat one very last cookie, and then we will stop.” Frog and Toad ate one very last cookie. “We must stop eating!” cried Toad as he ate another.

“Yes,” said Frog, reaching for a cookie, “we need will power.”

“What is will power?” asked Toad.

“Will power is trying hard not to do something that you really want to do,” said Frog.

“You mean like trying not to eat all of these cookies?” asked Toad.

“Right,” said Frog. Frog put the cookies in a box. “There,” he said. “Now we will not eat any more cookies.” “But we can open the box,” said Toad.

“That is true,” said Frog. Frog tied some string around the box. “There,” he said, “Now we will not eat any more cookies.”

“But we can cut the string and open the box,” said Toad.

“That is true,” said Frog. Frog got a ladder. He put the box up on a high shelf. “There,” said Frog. “Now we will not eat any more cookies.”

“But we can climb the ladder and take the box down from the shelf and cut the string and open the box,” said Toad.

“That is true,” said Frog. Frog climbed the ladder and took the box down from the shelf. He cut the string and opened the box. Frog took the box outside. He shouted in a large, loud voice, “hey birds, here are cookies!” Birds came from everywhere. They picked up all the cookies in their beaks and flew away.

“Now we have no more cookies to eat,” said Toad sadly. “Not even one.”

“Yes,” said Frog, “but we have lots and lots of will power.”

“You may keep it all, Frog,” said Toad. “I’m going home to bake a cake.”

Source:  “Cookies” by Arnold Lobel
in  Frog and Toad Together (HarperCollins, 1979) pages 30

CONSIDER THIS

There is willfulness and will power. And then there is willingness.  In Will and Spirit: A Contemplative Psychology, Gerald May, an American Psychiatrist and Theologian, writes about willingness and willfulness and the clear, yet subtle distinction between the two:

Willingness and willfulness do not apply to specific things or situations. They reflect instead the underlying attitude one has toward the wonder of life itself. Willingness notices this wonder and bows in some kind of reverence to it. Willfulness forgets it, ignores it, or at its worse, actively tries to destroy it. Thus willingness can sometimes seem very active and assertive, even aggressive. And willfulness can appear in the guise of passivity.

COOKIES

Toad baked some cookies. “These cookies smell very good,” said Toad. He ate one. “And they taste even better,” he said. Toad ran to Frog’s house. “Frog, Frog,” cried Toad, “taste these cookies that I have made.”

Frog ate one of the cookies. “These are the best cookies I have ever eaten!” said Frog.

Frog and Toad ate many cookies, one after another. “You know, Toad,” said Frog, with his mouth full, “I think we should stop eating. We will soon be sick.”

“You are right,” said Toad. “Let us eat one last cookie, and then we will stop.” Frog and Toad ate one last cookie.

There were many cookies left in the bowl. “Frog,” said Toad, “let us eat one very last cookie, and then we will stop.” Frog and Toad at one very last cookie.

“We must stop eating!” cried Toad as he ate another. “Yes,” said Frog, reaching for a cookie, “we need will power.” “What is will power?” asked Toad.

“Will power is trying hard not to do something that you really want to do,” said Frog.

“You mean like trying not to eat all of these cookies?” asked Toad. “Right,” said Frog.

Frog put the cookies in a box. “There,” he said. “Now we will not eat any more cookies.” “But we can open the box,” said Toad. “That is true,” said Frog.

Frog tied some string around the box. “There,” he said. “Now we will not eat any more cookies.” “But we can cut the string and open the box,” said Toad. “That is true,” said Frog.

Frog got a ladder. He put the box up on a high shelf. “There,” said Frog. “Now we will not eat any more cookies.” “But we can climb the ladder and take the box down from the shelf and cut the string and open the box,” said Toad. “That is true,” said Frog.

Frog climbed the ladder and took the box down from the shelf. He cut the string and opened the box.

Frog took the box outside. He shouted in a loud voice, “Hey birds, here are cookies!”

Birds came from everywhere. They picked up all the cookies in their beaks and flew away.

“Now we have no more cookies to eat,” said Toad sadly. “Not even one.”

“Yes,” said Frog, “but we have lots and lots of will power.” “You may keep it all, Frog,” said Toad. “I am going home now to bake a cake.”

Source | “Cookies” by Arnold Lobel
from Frog and Toad Together

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. | Romans 7:15 (nrsv)
  • What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. | Romans 7:15 (the message)

In the story, Frog and Toad eat so many cookies that they fear they will become sick.

  • Is there something that you like to eat or drink so much that you can’t stop yourself, even when you fear that you will get sick?
  • If you know that eating so much of something will make you sick, why do you continue to eat it?

Frog defines will power as “trying hard not to do something that you really want to do.”

  • How do you define will power?
  • If you really want to do something, why would you try not to do it?
  • Can part of you want to do something, while another part does not?

At the end of the story Frog says that they have lots and lots of will power because they want to eat more cookies but cannot because they have given them all away.

  • Does something have to be tempting you in order for you to have will power?
  • Do you have will power even when you are not using it?