Don’t Just Say It — Pray It!

My name is Lynn and I’m a pray-er. I pray alone, with family, with friends, in church, and in community. I pray the holy rosary, the Divine Mercy chaplet, the Angelus. I pray in tongues. I am part of a healing and deliverance team and believe me we pray, sometimes hours at a time and so… what?

I taught catechism for 11 years; I know what prayer is and what prayer is supposed to be: “Prayer is conversation with God; the intercourse of the soul with God… Prayer may be oral or mental, occasional or constant, ejaculatory or formal. It is a ‘beseeching the Lord’ (Ex. 32:11); ‘pouring out the soul before the Lord’ (1 Sam. 1:15); ‘praying and crying to heaven’ (2 Chr. 32:20); ‘seeking unto God and making supplication’ (Job 8:5); ‘drawing near to God’ (Ps. 73:28); ‘bowing the knees’ (Eph. 3:14).” Like I mentioned, I’m a pray-er.

And yet, I was completely blown away by the simple prayer of a 5-year-old Ethiopian boy. You see, he didn’t speak much English when God brought him into our life four months ago through adoption. A few ABCs, some 123s, and a hello. He didn’t know English, but he knew Jesus. The good people who took care of him told him that he was not forgotten and that God knew his name. And through Jesus he would have all his needs met.

Within weeks of arriving in America, he was speaking a lot of English. Each night he listened as his new forever family (my husband, my 6-year-old son, and I) said their night prayers before bed. When it was his turn, he’d become shy, hide his face in his hands, or laugh. We would say,”That’s okay,” give him a kiss, and end with the sign of the cross.

Then one night it happened! After the three of us had our turn at spontaneous prayer, our new son spoke his first prayer in English. He spoke it thoughtfully, lovingly and sincerely. “Jesus… thank you. Jesus… I love you. Jesus… tomorrow.”

We all stood in silence.

I cannot express to you what I felt in the very core of my being as I listened to those words. The fact is they weren’t just words. They were alive, genuine and heartfelt. They resonated holiness. I witnessed a true conversation with a living God. I experienced God’s holy presence.

I felt like an intruder, humbled and even a little ashamed: humbled by this 5-year-old’s simple yet powerful prayer and ashamed for the very same reason.

Aside from the Mass, the most perfect prayer is the Our Father. Jesus himself taught this prayer to his disciples. According to it is made up of three parts:

  1. Invocation, “Father” (Luke 11:2)‚ Call upon God to offer your prayer.
  2. Petitions:
    1. God’s glorification, “hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.” (Luke 11:2)‚ praise God first, this is a common theme in prayer throughout the Bible.
    2. divine help and guidance, “Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.” (Luke 11:3-4). Ask God your specific intentions.

How could this child know the prayer of Jesus?

Jesus… thank you. Jesus… I love you. (praise and glorification)

Jesus… tomorrow. (divine help and guidance)

I’ve said The Our Father many times but have I ever prayed it?

There’s a story about a great actor who recites Psalm 23, “The Lord is My Shepherd.” Upon finishing, the audience breaks out in thunderous applause and the actor receives a standing ovation. Then a humble priest stands and recites the same Psalm. Upon finishing, there is no applause. There is no standing ovation, just silence. The priest walks off the stage. Finally, the actor breaks the silence and says, “I know the Psalm, but he knows the shepherd!”

Our son had said the Lord’s Prayer from his heart, out of his need and with sincere gratefulness and love. His prayer covered everything. We all knew it because it resounded in our souls and penetrated our spirits. His prayer was perfect!

Lord, help me to speak with you and not to you. Help me to know the Good Shepherd. Help me to become a pray-er pleasing to you! Jesus, thank you. Jesus, I love you. Jesus, tomorrow. Amen!

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