“But God, I Don’t Know How to Pray”

Altar with Stained Glass holy Spirit red tongue of fire
Prayer requires practice and the willingness to believe and try.

*This article originally appeared on Catholic Stand, where I am a monthly contributor. Please check out all the great articles there.

I lay there, cuddled in bed with my littlest guy and reminded him we needed to say bedtime prayers before our story. He looked at me with those big beautiful, innocent eyes and said,

“But Mommy, I don’t know how to pray.”

I knew what he meant. I’d been there myself not that long ago.

It’s funny how adversity makes you stronger and teaches you things you didn’t even know existed before. Before, when I prayed, I said my prayers. Not that it was quite a methodical, absent of meaning recitation, but it wasn’t…(what’s the word here???) absorbing, engaging, encompassing, deep?

One of the things I learned (and Loved) about attending the non-Denominational church while struggling with my Catholic faith was that boy, those guys could PRAY! 

Before, I didn’t know what praying was. I had said my prayers almost daily (forgetting occasionally) and read some prayers of some the saints (read that as skimmed through a thing or two), but I hadn’t heard many people really PRAY.

What an eye opener it was to see those men and women close their eyes, raise their hands to the Lord, and speak what was in their heart and soul, pouring out hardships and woes, praise and thanksgiving to the one true God.

I think I just sat there. Stunned. Embarrassed.

Embarrassed for them – didn’t they know people were looking at them???

Embarrassed for me – I could never be that wanton, that open, that obvious in front of people!!!

Prayer was a private, quiet, behind closed doors kind of thing, not this.

But I continued going.

These Christians were on to something, and I knew I could learn a lot from them. I began reading my Bible and finding the words Jesus Himself spoke, but I was no Jesus. I could never pray like as well as He could! I read the words of the Old Testament Jews and the early Christians, but I was struggling to get by and lacked their inspiration. I contemplated the prayers of those like Saint Francis, but I was certainly no saint!

But as I learned more, I found that the Lord has been asking us to speak for Him and to Him since the very beginning. Moses is not praying here, but he is the mouthpiece of the Lord.

As I lay in bed with my little one, I was reminded again that God was asking me to be His mouthpiece for my children, to teach them, to open the doors of faith for them that they would not receive otherwise. I felt a bit like Moses here (but watch also the Lord’s response):

The Appointment of Aaron

Moses said: I beseech thee, Lord. I am not eloquent from yesterday and the day before: and since thou hast spoken to thy servant, I have more impediment and slowness of tongue.

But still Moses balked. Was I, in my self-consciousness, being Moses at his least?

The Lord said to him: Who made man’s mouth? or who made the dumb and the deaf, the seeing and the blind? did not I? Go therefore and I will be in thy mouth: and I will teach thee what thou shalt speak. But he said: I beseech thee, Lord send whom thou wilt send.

I knew God created me. He knew my faults and shortcomings better than I did, and yet still I resisted.

The Lord being angry at Moses, said Aaron the Levite is thy brother, I know that he is eloquent: behold he cometh forth to meet thee, and seeing thee shall be glad at heart. Speak to him, and put my words in his mouth: and I will be in thy mouth, and in his mouth, and will shew you what you must do. He shall speak in thy stead to the people, and shall be thy mouth: but thou shalt be to him in those things that pertain to God.

Exodus 4: 10-16

God seldom sends an Aaron to teach our children to pray or to pray in our place. We need to pray on our own, to stumble through those first awkward words and sentences and bring all of ourselves, holding nothing back, to God through prayer.

We don’t need to be as eloquent as Jesus in our prayer. We shouldn’t compare our prayer to that of Jesus. That’s not fair, and God is always fair. Over and over in the Bible, in PsalmsMatthew, Paul, and in others, we see God giving people the power to pray, but we didn’t even need to be as eloquent as David or Paul or Matthew or any of the others. We do need to reach out to the Lord continuously and with belief in the holy Spirit’s ability to give us the words as they did though. We don’t need our prayers to be repeated by millions as the prayers of our more famous saints. We just need our prayers to go to God and to be His mouthpiece speaking to our children’s hearts.

We just need to try.

We just need to pray.

God Bless…

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