I lay there, cuddled in bed with my littlest guy and reminded him that 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 amazing how adversity makes us stronger and teaches us about things we didn’t even know existed previously, like what it means to pray from our hearts. How many Catholics, even “good Catholics,” skim over words credited to some of our best known saints or just say prayers as opposed to really praying? It may not be quite a mindless, methodical, absent of meaning recitation of prayer, but it’s also not…(what’s the word here?) absorbing, engaging, encompassing, deep?
While struggling with divorce and my Catholic faith, I attended a non-Denominational church. It was there that I learned that, Wow, our Christian brothers and sisters can 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 hearts and souls, pouring out hardships and woes, praise and thanksgiving to the one true God.
The first time I went, 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, certainly not this.
Yet those services drew me in. I was fascinated by the way the people spoke to God as if they really new Him. Many cradle Catholics forget the true beauty of Catholic prayers passed down for hundreds of years. Others think that reciting ancient words is the only road to prayer, and, for them, prayer becomes stale. These Christians were on to something, and many at-risk Catholics long to understand.
I learned things I’d never been taught in my Catholic upbringing and became one of those rare beings, a Bible reading Catholic. As I searched for how to pray, I found the words Jesus Himself spoke, but I was no Jesus and could never pray 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!
Praying had become difficult, and I had yet to learn to lean on the Holy Spirit to put my pain into His deep groanings.
Being the Mouthpiece of God
Pope Francis has spoken of the New Evangelism, which means, not only teaching others of the beauty and depth of the Mass, but also reaching out to those at risk because they don’t know how to pray. I wasn’t alone in enjoying and learning from this large non-Denominational church. 70% of its members were ex-Catholics, many suffering from divorce, many not recognizing the depth and beauty of the Catholic Mass and faith, many simply not knowing how to pray.
We, who have been blessed with this knowledge, must reach out to others. We talk of being the hands and feet of God, but we must also be the mouthpiece of God, bringing His word and the ability to pray to others as the Lord has been asking His faithful to do for Him since the very beginning.
It isn’t always easy, but it hasn’t been easy for many of the Lord’s faithful. Many of us, when asked to pray or to speak about our faith feel a bit like Moses:
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.
The Lord had asked Moses to be His mouthpiece, but still Moses balked. Are we, in our self-consciousness over open prayer, being Moses at his least?
But watch the Lord’s response:
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.
God created us. He knows our faults and shortcomings better than we do, and yet still we resist speaking for Him, praying to Him just as Moses did:
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.
God rarely sends an Aaron to teach our neighbors to pray, and I’m fairly certain He never sent Aaron in Moses’ place to teach Moses’ children to pray.
Maybe you feel you are a mix of Aaron and Moses – lacking Aaron’s wisdom, lacking Moses’ ability, but still God expects us to be His mouthpiece and to teach our children and all His children the world over how to pray to Him both through the beauty of prayer through the Mass and the Rosary and prayer from our heart.
We don’t need to be as eloquent as Jesus in our prayer. Throughout the Bible, in Psalms, Matthew, Paul, and many others places, we see God gives people the power to pray when they seek it. We don’t even need to be as eloquent as David or Paul or Matthew or any of the others, but to save those at risk Catholics, to reverse that 70% that is right now missing out on the Mass and the Eucharist, to reach out to those outside our faith, we do need to pray aloud with belief that the holy Spirit’s will help us.
Be God’s mouthpiece, pray genuinely, take a risk, trust God, even if it means stumbling through those first awkward words and sentences.
We just need to try.
We just need to pray.