June Lockhart on Her Practice of Everyday Prayer: ‘Prayer and God are Inseparable’
By Movieguide® Staff
Note: This story is part of our Faith in Hollywood series. For similar stories, click here.
The famed TV and Movie actress June Lockhart, best known for her 1950s shows like LASSIE and classic movies like SERGEANT YORK, relies on prayer.
Although Lockhart was born in New York, she remembers the walks that she and her parents took while living in Canada.
“I was about four years old when my mother and father took me for a walk one morning along a rutted country lane in Canada. ‘Exploring,’ we called it. A rugged split rail fence bordered the lane, and to our right was a blue lake surrounded by silver birch trees,” June recalled in an article from 1958.
Lockhart said it was on one of these walks that her father taught her how to pray.
“Because of that childhood experience, I have always felt a naturalness about praying anywhere—even sitting on a fencepost. And I know a great many people who feel the same way: a prayer can be offered anywhere,” Lockhart said.
Later in life, Lockhart noticed that others practiced every day “anywhere” prayer.
“A doctor friend told me once that he had developed the habit of uttering quick prayers wherever he may be. He prays as he rides up an elevator to see a patient, he prays at a party for a troubled person he may talk to, he prays while waiting in his car for the light to change,” she remembered, adding: “I know a cowboy actor who prays in the sawdust of a rodeo ring. He begins each performance with the silent words: ‘Jesus, be on my mind, on my lips and in my heart.’ Consequently he dedicates his performance to Christ, though he is standing before thousands of people.”
She continued: “An actress I know never begins a performance without saying a prayer and blessing herself; she stands in the wings of the stage and thanks God for a chance to do the work she likes.”
Lockhart confessed that while people can pray anywhere, the most impactful place for prayer is within the home and at church.
“So it’s obvious that people can—and do—pray wherever they find themselves. But I don’t feel that all places are really equal as places of prayer. There are some where prayer has always seemed to me more necessary and important: the home, for example,” she said.
“When I was growing up, it seemed to me that our home was built of prayer. Whenever I read of children going bad, I wonder if they ever had the advantage of family prayer in their homes. Did they say a blessing before meals? Were they taught to thank God for what they had, as well as to ask for what they wanted? Did they go to bed with prayer and wake up with it again in the morning?”
Lockhart recognized the blessing that everyday prayer had in her life as she entered the world of entertainment.
“Prayer in the home is an important stabilizer, ready to sustain us in times of difficulty, but also ready to steady us in times of good fortune,” Lockhart said. “But important as the home is as a setting for prayer, I was still a child when I began to notice that there is another place so special, so set apart as a center of prayer that it stands in a class all by itself. And that place is church.”
As a child, Lockhart began to wonder why people held their prayer lives to such a high standard.
“I was curious to know why these people felt it was so important to be in a special place when they prayed,” she said. “Then one day I learned that my own father felt this way, too. Even when he was in the middle of a picture, though tired and hungry and anxious to see his family at the end of a day, he always drove by our church on his way home, stopped, and went inside to pray.”
Lockhart recalled of her father’s prayer life:
Daddy would admit it was quite an inconvenience; he’d admit that he could stay in his car and say the same prayers while dodging automobiles.
“But I don’t,” he said, “because I feel my prayers are more meaningful if I pray in church.” When I asked him why, he said, “Because prayer, my dear, is a religious act.”
Surprised that he should make such an obvious statement, I asked him what he meant.
“There are a lot of people who think of prayer as something apart from God,” he said. “They think of it as a kind of mental energy; I feel that prayer and God are inseparable, and that’s why I go to God’s house when I pray.”
After Lockhart grew older, she said she adopted her father’s same outlook on prayer.
“There is something special about a prayer offered in a sanctified place,” she wrote. “That is what I feel, whenever I enter a church. I feel the hush of thousands of prayers steal over me. I feel the impact of the words of Christ. It is written, He said long ago, My house shall be called the house of prayer (Matthew 21:13).”
Lockhart recently turned 96 on June 25, 2021, and has starred in over 30 movies during her career in Hollywood.