The Prayer Cat

“Please Daddy! Please Daddy, may we have a kitty?” My youngest, Abigail, begged as her older sisters folded their hands and looked at me with their best puppy eyes.

I had heard this plea from one of the three girls for too long and I was growing tired of it.

“Look, girls,” I said. “I already told you that we aren’t going to get a kitty. They’re too much work.”

“We’ll take care of the kitty!” Shannon, my eldest, interjected, and even our quiet middle child, Joanna, chimed in:

“Yes, Daddy! We promise!”

I sighed. “Okay, girls, how about this? If you are really meant to have a kitten, why don’t you pray for one? If God wants you to have one, He’ll find another way.  But I am not going to buy you a cat.”

I thought that would discourage them, but instead my girls looked at each other with wide, delighted eyes.

“That’s a great idea!” Shannon said. “Come on, guys, let’s go pray in the backyard.”

I shook my head, hardly believing what my daughters were saying. We were not an overly religious family–my wife sometimes brought the girls to church on weekends when we had nothing else to do, and I would tag along on Easters and Christmases, that sort of thing, but it just wasn’t a very important part of my life. I preferred the newspaper and football games to sitting in a stuffy room listening to a pastor talk about a boring old book.

An hour later, I looked out my study window, and sure enough, my girls were kneeling in a circle, praying fervently for a cat, their pigtailed heads bowed close together.

“What are they doing?” My wife, Mary asked as she joined me in the study and looked out the window too.

“Praying for a cat,” I told her, and then explained what I’d said to them earlier.

“Hmm,” Mary said, raising her eyebrows. “Well, tell them to come in, it’s time for dinner.”

As she went back to the kitchen to put the finishing touches on the dishes, I went to the backyard to call the girls.

“Shannon, Joanna, Abby! Dinnertime!” I hollered.

The girls didn’t seem to hear me.

“Hey! You three! Time to eat, your mother is waiting for you!”

They were still quiet. I felt a prick of worry, wondering if perhaps I shouldn’t have been so facetious with the girls earlier.

“Look,” I said. “You can all stop praying for a cat now. God is not going to drop a cat out of the sky if you keep…”

I didn’t finish my sentence when I heard a distant yowl that grew louder and louder and louder and then, out of nowhere, a black-and-white furball landed in the bushes right beside the girls.

I stared in amazement as my daughters jumped to their feet and ran to the bush.

“It’s a kitty! It’s a kitty! God answered our prayers!” Shannon shrieked as Joanna and Abby worked to entangle the furball from our bushes.

Mary came out at the sound of the screaming. Her face reflected the shock I felt as the girls ran to us, cradling a black-and-white cat, miraculously unharmed, in their arms.

“Where did that come from?” Mary asked the girls.

“From God!” Abby said. “God gave us a kitty from the sky!”

Mary looked at me, and I nodded numbly. “It actually did fall from the sky. I saw it with my own eyes.”

Mary shook her head. “Unbelievable.”

“We can keep him, right, Dad? You said if God gave us a kitty we could keep it!” Shannon pressed me.

I looked at the cat, then at my daughters, and sighed. I did say that, didn’t I?

I was buying cat feed at the local supermarket when I ran into a neighbor who lived in our track, behind our house.

“You got a cat?” Joe said, indicating the bag.

“Yeah,” I said. “The girls were praying for one…”

“And so you got them one? How kind of you.”

“Not exactly. God gave it to them.”

“God?” Joe’s eyes widened.

“I swear. The cat literally dropped from the sky,” I said, and then related the story to him.

But instead of giving me a weird look, as I’d expected, Joe suddenly started laughing. He laughed so hard, he had to wipe his eyes with his hand when he was done.

“Ralph, you don’t know the backstory,” he said.

“What backstory?” I asked.

“The backstory of your newest member of the family,” he said, gesturing at the bag of cat food. “This happened about a week ago, right? Black and white cat, skinny little thing?”

“How did you know?”

“Because a week ago, a stray cat got stuck in our tree and would not come down, no matter how we tried to entice it with catnip or other treats. Finally, my brother thought to use his truck, hook a rope between the truck and the top of the tree, and bend the tree down so we could get the cat out. But as we were pulling the tree down, the hook snapped, and that tree snapped back like a spring, flinging that poor cat into the air. We were so certain we had accidentally killed it my wife was miserable all week. I am so glad I can go home and tell her what actually happened!”

Then with another chuckle, Joe clapped me on the back and walked out of the grocery store, still laughing.

I shook my head as I paid for my groceries. What was it the pastor had said the last time I’d tagged along with my wife and the girls to church? That God especially delights to answer the innocent prayers of children?

Maybe I’d better go back to church next weekend to ask him how to make the girls’ prayers slightly less effective, or perhaps how to pray for free cat food to fall from the sky.