CHAPTER 9: Chapel Prayers by H. T. Ytterboe
FATHER'S favorite book in the Bible was that of Ecclesiastes, and the text he so often chose for chapel devotion was a passage from its twelfth chapter: "Remember now Thy Creator in the days of Thy youth." This quotation he used so often that it became an integral part of his very self, and all the students and faculty in those early days said that they never heard that quotation without thinking of Professor H. T. Ytterboe.
I have in my hands small fragments of Father's chapel prayers. They are short and to the point. They are only notes written in pencil, but they show that he did prepare them. Read today, they seem directed to the young students of Academy in spirit and in mood. They are directed to the young who have a way of thinking they will live a thousand years!
Here are a few excerpts from his notes:
"Our Heavenly Father, we come to Thee this morning with thanks in our hearts and on our lips for all the untold blessings that are daily heaped upon us. We thank Thee for the sound bodies that Thou has given most of us, permitting us to enjoy health and the immeasurable blessings that flow from it. Teach us that our bodies are not ours, but only given to us for a time and that we must answer to Thee for the use and the abuse of them. Take away from us the fear of death, and when our life's journey is at an end, let our souls, O Lord, be taken home to Thee who gave it."
"Why, should we go to church? There is an inspiration in numbers. Take on a beautiful morning and the air is full of incense gathered together from all the plants and flowers. If every flower stood by itself, it would not make much of an impression, but take a large number and put them together --- they will make a beautiful picture. By this combined strength they perfume the air, so we should come together and each of us should mingle his prayers with all the others and like a volume of incense, they should ascend to the throne of God."
"Our heavenly Father, we confess with shame that we often only come to Thee when we are in need and forget to thank Thee in the days of prosperity. As long as we have health and enough to eat and drink, we think we can get along without Thee, or, at best, we act as though we could. Then Thou hast to send us sickness and sorrow to remind us that we are not to live here forever, and if we wish to land in heaven, we must walk in the path that leads to Heaven, and as we daily sin, we need daily to ask forgiveness. O God, be merciful to us and forgive this neglect and forgetfulness of ours of coming to Thee only when we are in trouble."
"Grant that we may fully appreciate what Thou sayest in Thy words, 'Remember now Thy Creator in the days of Thy youth.' Teach us to comprehend fully the conclusion of the whole matter. 'Fear God, keep His commandments, for that is the whole duty of man.'"
"If there are some of us who do not do our duty, teach us how to do it and help us to do it, and if any of the students go contrary to Thy laws, help them, O Lord. Grant, Heavenly Father, that no one here shall act as to bring shame upon the good name of the students or upon the fair name of St. Olaf, the church or the nation."
"Teach teachers and students to be loyal to Thee and Thy name, and if we do wrong, expecting it to be hidden from the eyes of men, God shall see. O, that man would praise the Lord for His goodness and His wonderful works to the children of men. Yes, let us give thanks to the Lord for He is good and His mercy endureth forever."
In reading many of these fragments, I am impressed with the feeling that his religion was of a young and joyous kind, his prayers seem to be permeated with the spirit of the Psalm which reads
"Oh be joyful unto the Lord, all ye lands, serve the Lord with gladness and come before His presence with a song."