The Bear stalked his prey from upwind. He moved without noise, a silent shadow through the false light of dawn. It was a magnificent Stag drinking at the Fish Stream. If the Stag sensed the presence of the Bear, not even the Bear could chase him down, for he was faster and more agile than a pony.
Under his breath, Bear prayed, God, you give every beast his meat. Deliver brother Stag to your Bear to his health and your glory. Amen.
“That wasn’t half bad,” the Bear said to himself, louder than he intended, but his luck held, for brother Stag had not heard.
“Oh, Heavenly Father of man and beast,” he whispered, “this is your Bear, of creatures least. He begs that you his belly fill, if it be… be Thy Holy Will.”
He thought that sounded very nice. Now that was a prayer!
“Thou dost ride the Sun on high and shed Thy Mercy from Thine eye. Thou dost give wisdom to the Bee and strength to catch the Stag to me. Oh, fulgent light, splendif’rous throne, from magmite feet to…” Oh, dear, he had quite gotten himself boxed in with ‘throne,’ but that did not matter. “From magmite feet to sapprhite chrone! Upon the leprous clouds Thou ridest, like a big bird I must confidest! Many stars, Thy counting stones… are… are… scattered just like pony bones.”
No, no. That did not sound holy at all.
The Bear noticed the Stag was gone.
“Thanks for nothing, God. Bear tried really hard to pray, too.”
Later, his stomach rumbling, he told the whole story to Father Corbinian. He insisted on reciting his spendif’rous prayer, on which he had continued working all day.
“Excuse- Excuse me, Bear,” Father Corbinian interrupted. “I’m sure that’s considered very fine epic verse among bears, but I’ve had quite enough. I’m sure God has, too.”
“But, Father, Bear has many stanzas left. We’re coming to the best part. With mighty strength, and fur just the right length, my jaws are strong and my teeth are long! I crush the mountains ‘neath my paws, and bless all creatures with my laws. The only greater than the Bear, are you, O God, but You're way up there! Together we-”
“Bear! Bear! Stop!” Father Corbinian had clapped his hands to his ears.
“No wonder you did not catch that Stag. He probably fled in horror. Bear, what’s wrong with the few prayers I taught you?”
“Bear thought it would be better to pray from his own heart. It doesn’t seem… sponshus when Bear uses Father’s prayers.”
But Father Corbinian was not sympathetic.
“It sounds less like praying than some bear who enjoys the sound of his own voice! Pray like I taught you, or, if you feel like being sponshus, whatever that’s supposed to mean, pray to God simply, from the heart. Something like, ‘God, please help me catch breakfast. Amen.’ Then give thanks no matter what. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for Vespers. Really, Bear, sometimes you’re just too much… too much Bear!”
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