Pretiola – a child’s reward

by Marilyn Mathis

Sturgis Pretzel House in Lititz, Pa., is where America’s first pretzel was commercially twisted. The year was 1861 and the baker was Julius Sturgis.

Today, visitors are encouraged to “come experience the unique history of pretzel making in the heart of [the] beautifully quaint town of Lititz and take part in a tradition that’s centuries old.”

The pretzel is the world’s oldest snack food. It originated in 610 A.D. in a monastery in Northern Italy when monks used scraps of dough, formed them into strips and then twisted them to represent a child’s arms folded in prayer. The treats were very soft and chewy and were offered to the children for saying their prayers. They were really bribes to get them to pray. The monks called these twists “pretiola,” which is Latin for “little reward.”

Later the “pretiola” journeyed out of Italy into other countries and finally into Germany, where it was salted and glazed. It then became known as the “bretzel” or “PRETZEL.”

Eventually the Sturgis family introduced the pretzel to America. Workers in the early days at the bakery earned two cents for every 100 pretzels they made. They worked six days a week, 14 hours a day. How would you like those working conditions?

Did you get it? Pretzels were first made to encourage children to PRAY! The children had “trouble” praying. Do you ever experience difficulty in your prayer life? Is it ever hard for you to pray? Are there times when you just don’t want to pray and could use some encouragement?

Sometimes prayer can be a real struggle. Often we experience the “Deadly D’s” of prayer – doubt, drifting, drowsiness, distractions and discouragement.

DOUBT: Will God hear me? What do I say? I don’t know how to pray. Guess what? The disciples of Jesus didn’t know how to pray either. They asked Him to “teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). If you don’t know what to say, you can’t go wrong with “Thy will be done.” Ask God to teach you how to pray and to help your unbelief.

DRIFTING: Does your mind ever wander when you pray? Is it hard to stay focused? One of my favorite verses says, “Taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Ask God to help you keep alert and focused while praying. It helps me to use a prayer list.

DROWSINESS: Do you ever get sleepy when you pray? So did Jesus’ disciples when He asked them to pray with Him (Matthew 26:40-41). Why don’t you try walking, instead of sitting, and praying out loud?

DISTRACTIONS: What draws you away from prayer? A very common distraction is the telephone or cell phone. When you answer the phone, you are saying, “I’m more interested in what’s going on around me than in my Father who is in control of all that’s going on around me.” Ask God to help you “set your mind on things above and not on things of the earth” (Colossians 3:2).

DISCOURAGEMENT: Why doesn’t God answer when I cry out to Him? Is He really listening? Why pray?

Jesus said in Luke 18:1, “At all times they ought to pray and not lose heart.” When it seems God is not listening, there is great comfort in knowing that He is sovereign and that He is at work for your good and His glory. Don’t lose heart!

Prayer is a wonderful privilege given to those who have placed their faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. He is the Way and the Door to the Father. In Him, believers have access to God and can talk to Him – that’s prayer!

Practice the privilege of prayer. Try reading a good book on prayer. May I suggest the Bible? And if you need some tasty encouragement to pray – eat a PRETZEL!