Growing up, my family wasn't really the religious type. If I had to classify us, we were of the Christian faith with a belief in God, but it never was a big part of our lives. I have very little memories of going to any type of church service or activity, and prayer wasn't something we really discussed or did as a family. It wasn't that we rejected religion or anything, but it always seemed like it was something that we just never discussed.
Years later, when I was ten years old, we moved from Hurricane to Winfield, WV...and right into a haunted house. Already at this point, I had an interest in paranormal research, and read any book I could find on the subject, which included several books on WV folklore and ghost tales. A common theme in many of these stories was the power of prayer. It seemed as if any time something paranormal happened that scared the crud out of you, all you had to do was say the Lord's Prayer and it would go away.
That little fact was heavy in my mind during one particularly frightening time period of activity in my house. Whatever energies or entities that were there when we moved in were NOT friendly, and were quick to make their displeasure known to the living inhabitants of the home, especially me and my sister. One night, I lay awake in bed, terrified at the sounds of boot steps clomping down my hall, accompanied by a horrifying sense of dread permeating the room. Shadows seemed to dart around the room in an unnatural manner, and I was terrified, even more than usual.
I knew that the Lord's Prayer was supposed to alleviate these feelings of horror, which were quickly escalating, but there was a HUGE problem. At ten years old, and with VERY little exposure to church or the Bible, I didn't know the words!
There was a children's Bible on my bookshelf, which I leaped out of bed and grabbed, but whether or not because it was dark, or it wasn't in there, or I was simply too frightened to think correctly, I couldn't find the Lord's Prayer anywhere in it. In my semi-panic, the words to another prayer DID pop into my head:
Thank God for dirty dishes
They have a tale to tell
While others may go hungry, we're eating very well
With home, health and happiness, I shouldn't make a fuss.
By the stack of evidence, God's been very good to us!
This interesting choice of words to battle the paranormal came from a decorative plaque that my grandma had hanging in her kitchen--a place where I spent many happy days as a child. I closed my eyes and repeated the poem over and over again, and within a few minutes, the foot steps in the hall quieted, the shadows receded, and the heavy feeling of fear in the room disappeared completely.
Even at that young age, I realized that it wasn't necessarily the WORDS that held the power, but the intent and the focus. I probably could have sang Yankee Doodle and have it be just as effective....as long as I was focusing my energy and thoughts toward my intended outcome. This realization carries over today in my work as a paranormal investigator when I'm asked about the effectiveness of blessings and cleansing rituals. My answer always is along the same lines--whatever you do won't work unless you BELIEVE it is going to work.