Teach Us to Pray

Lord, teach us to pray . . .

When life troubles us
and we need a clearer view
of your path.
When we must act now
but need help to act well
with a grace that surprises
and transforms.

Lord, teach us to pray . . .
When our vision of prayer
and our experiences of it
are much too small.
When we use prayer to hide
from your world and you use prayer
to help us engage the world
with compassion and love.

Lord, teach us to pray . . .
As you taught generations of disciples
once filled with fear
who sought your help
and found strength
to do the brave things
you ask your people to do
with courage and faith.

Lord, teach us to pray . . .
Until prayer becomes
the breath that fills and moves us,
the gift that draws us to you,
the way we learn
that all these days we live
are yours.


Step by Step

Anne Lamott writes about the time her brother waited until the night before his huge research paper on birds was due to begin working on it. He sat at the family table, surrounded by stacks of bird books, completely overwhelmed, as much a mess as the table was. How could he do this? Where should he start?

His father sat down beside him, put his arm around his shoulders, leaned in, and said, “Bird by bird, Buddy. Bird by bird.” He gave his son a way to move forward.

Following Christ feels overwhelming sometimes. We want faith that moves mountains, courage that overcomes fear, love that changes the world. We picture who we want to be spiritually, then we look at the messy situations that surround us and wonder how in the world we will get from Point A to Point B. The distance seems too great. Time too short. Opportunities too wasted. Where would we start?

In those moments when we’re overwhelmed by how far we have to go, God leans in, and offers what we need. “Step by step, child. Follow me, step by step.”

We want to live with Christ’s courage, so God shows us the people we find intimidating. God leans in and nudges us to speak to them anyway, then listen for their response, then prepare to do this again and again.

We want to live with Christ’s hope, so God leans in and shows us children we can learn from, enjoy, and befriend. We find a struggling parent who needs to know someone notices and cares. So we offer a friendly word, a shoulder, a listening ear, a plate of brownies. We spread those acts of joy that we can offer, those things that we can do. We watch for the steps God invites us to take.

We want to live with Christ’s love, so God leans in and says, “Do you see that person?” Being thankful for that task they did will change their day. Noticing who needs what we can give and giving it moves us closer to Christ, step by step. A selfless gift given, a gracious gesture made, a prayer lifted on their behalf, a question bravely asked that changes a difficult situation. Small steps from apathy to compassion draw us closer to Christ. Doing small things with great love, as Mother Teresa said, are the ways we follow.