Learning to: Pray
I know that not every person who reads this blog is Christian, religious, or of a certain faith, and I respect those differences. I, however, am a Christian, and much of my life experiences can attest to that identification. When I see someone close to me is struggling (or doing well, for that matter), I pray for them, whether they believe in the power of prayer or not. If there is anything more that I can do, they should know that the kindness and consideration that I extend is due to my belief in righteousness that stems directly from my Christian morals, upbringing, and lifestyle. That being said, I believe in the power of prayer.
How many times have you walked in on your parents… praying for you? I’m talking knelt down on their knees, whispering words to God that only they, and He, can hear. You can make a sound or try to interrupt them but, if you get a response, it’s clear that you’ve disrupted a sacred moment.
Hearing my parents pray together is one of my earliest memories and it's how I learned to pray.
I remember as a kid, on Friday nights, my younger brother and I looked forward to spending the night in my parents’ room. It began with us all sleeping in their king-sized bed, and eventually we got too big, so my parents made us make a pallet of blankets on the floor. We didn’t mind it. We would stay up late, watch TV, and eventually knock out. At some point, in the middle of the night, one or both of us would wake up, and sneak back into my parents’ bed. They would scoot over, and we would get to fall asleep again in the warm spots that they left for us post-scoot. It was awesome.
The only thing about sleeping in their room was that we could always count on the alarm clock to go off at 5:30 am. It was an annoying buzzing sound, an alarm that they still use to this day, and mom would get out of bed, turn off the alarm, usually run to the bathroom, then return. My dad would get out of bed, and they would both kneel, on her side of the bed, and quietly pray. Sometimes, once they were both awake, I would wake up, too, and listen.
I would hear them pray for all types of people and situations. They prayed for the church, calling people out by name, they would pray for each of their children, and they would pray for specific things going on in their and other people’s lives. Hearing their sleepy voices, as they took turns saying their prayers, individually identify people, places, and situations unbeknownst to me, was fascinating. How did they remember everyone? How did they have the discipline to wake up every morning before the sun to pray for people who, I’m sure, were probably still sleeping?
As a teenager, I remember walking in on them praying on many mornings before I went to school. I would knock on their door, they wouldn’t answer (you know, since they were talking to God and all), and I would barge in to see them knelt in prayer. I knew better than to interrupt. Believe me, asking daddy for money before I left for school or reminding mommy to sign a permission slip could wait until they said “amen.” I would come back a little later, and they usually wouldn’t even remember that I came in earlier. And that’s how I learned to pray- to take my mind to a place where outside distractions were of no significance because prayer meant time for me and God.
As I got older, their routine never changed. As I started to spend nights out with friends and nights quickly turned into mornings, I always knew to be home before 5:30 am or just call it a “sleepover”. Nothing would be more awkward than trying to sneak up the stairs to my room, heels in hand and dress too short, and running into mom or dad in the hallway right before their prayer time.
Even today, my parents ask me questions like “Do you pray for us?” Of course I always say “yes,” and the question that follows is always “What do you pray about?”, and then “We pray for y’all every day. Do you know that?” Yes, I do. But I always tell my parents what I pray about for them. As a bishop, I know that my father has a lot on his plate when it comes to the care and counseling of church members. As a bishop’s wife, I know that my mother has to be his support and confidante when it comes to the many things that can arise in the lives of people in the church. Combine those responsibilities with family, health, work, and whatever else may come along, and I better be keeping my parents in prayer!
Sometimes, I am reminded that a huge reason why I am alive and happy is because of prayer; I know that there are people who love and pray for me every single day and I pray for myself and the world around me as well. Not only my parents, but also friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ tell me that they are praying for me and what they are praying for. And I do the same. I remember when I would pray for specific things- and it was usually to finally get something that Iwanted and worked hard for. But my parents taught me that is not what prayer is about. If God knows my heart, he knows what I need and what I want. Praying for appreciation of my blessings while waiting for an answer became something that I found myself asking for very often. My prayers turned into personal requests for development in areas like contentment, confidence, and faith. Those were the types of things I would need before I received any kind of blessing.
Sure, finally receiving something that I worked really hard for would be amazing, but it wouldn’t always bring me any closer to God or His purpose for me at any point in my life. You know what would? Being presented with choices and dilemmas that are difficult to deal with, but that I somehow always overcome. When I prayed for strength in certain areas, that is exactly what I would receive through the thickening of my faith through experiences that were usually quite unpleasant.
To improve my contentment, I had to overcome envy. To gain confidence, I had to move past self-doubt. To strengthen my faith, I continue to work on totally relying on God and His plan for my life.
Learning to pray has proven to be one of the most important lessons that my parents taught me- a life skill that can only be taught through example. Whether it's about something completely personal, school or work-related, for someone else, or just to give thanks, prayer continues to be instrumental in all parts of my life. If you read or have any connection to The Black Educator blog, you should know that my prayer has touched your life as well.