can you teach me how to pray?

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My husband was at Costco with my mother-in-law and two nephews, Isaiah and Isaac. They were chatting over their hotdogs and sodas when out of the blue, Isaac says, “Uncle Mon, can you teach me how to pray?”

Raymond was caught a bit off-guard, but he takes his time chewing his hotdog and then says, “Sure. How come you want to learn how to pray?”

Isaac says, “Last Sunday we went to the Grotto in Oregon, and everybody was praying and I didn’t know how, so I couldn’t pray with them. I want to learn how so that next time I can do it, too.”

Prayer was such an important part of my life as a child. It was everywhere, all around me; we prayed at home, at school, at the mall. I didn’t always understand it, nor did I always appreciate it, but I have never known a time in my life when there wasn’t an open bridge between me and the Divine. What I am beginning to discover now as I grow older is that prayer is much more than a boring Sunday routine. It’s the language of my relationship with God. It’s a well of strength and peace for troubled times. It’s a bond that holds me together with other human beings who are also going through the ups and downs of life. It’s a place of community where I can belong to something greater than myself.

There are so many different forms of prayer, so many names that people address their intentions to. Somehow, these differences in practice have created a misconception that prayer creates division. Maybe it does to a certain extent, but I think the idea of real, honest prayer is not to create barriers between people, but to build bridges. I might be wrong, and I’m no theologian, but my best prayers were always the ones when I was being completely open, honest and sincere. They came out of me at times when I brought everything I had to the table – heartaches, victories, even anger. They were formed in moments when I set aside what I thought I knew in order to admit that I actually didn’t know everything, and in turn to find wisdom greater than my own. They were the times when I stopped pretending to be something I wasn’t, but I was challenging myself to be who I am meant to be.

When we are all of those things that we are in prayer, when we bring all that we have to the table, when we acknowledge that we don’t know it all, and when we accept ourselves for who we are and challenge ourselves to become who we were meant to be…how can we not become better people? How can we not become a better community? How can we not become a stronger family?

The world could use a little more prayer, whatever way each person does it, as long as it’s from the heart. It might not fix everything, but if we do it all together and out of love for one another, I can’t see how it couldn’t help.

And don’t worry if you don’t know how. Isaac can teach you.

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