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Teach us to pray

Start with something simple I suggested; just say on each bead what is in your heart, “Lord, teach me to pray”. Br Nathan-James reflects on how it is important to be ready to offer something tanglible that helps people connect with God.  

I enjoy working with young people. They are quite often very forthright in expressing their beliefs and opnions and you never know just when they are going to surprise you. When you least expect it out of their mouths comes a question or statement through which you realise they have engaged deeply, and been challenged by, something you have talked to them about or an experience you have shared together. It is also in this moment that they let down the barriers they place around themselves in their everyday interactions with peers, parents and teachers etc.

Free of pretense and bravado they seek to find expression to an inner searching of who they are and what life is all about admidst the joys and sorrows they see in the world.

During a school visit a young lad asked me to walk with him back to his dorm. It was clear he was trying to initiate a meaningful discussion about things we had been talking about during the week. As we reached the room I was staying in he finally plucked up the courage to make his point; can you teach me how to pray.

Can you imagine hearing that, hearing words the disciples said to Jesus; a very humbling experience indeed. We talked further. He was not raised in a Christian environment but had been interested in learning about how to pray. We talked for a while and I gave him my Rosary and some simple prayers to use on it. Start with something simple I suggested; just say on each bead what is in your heart, “Lord, teach me to pray”. Then when you feel comfortable, try one of the prayers I gave you. The following year I noticed him walking around, and I could just see the tip of the Rosary hanging out of his pocket. He at least still had it and had not thrown it away.

This is why another fun, but very critical part of the workshops is to teach people how to make and use prayer beads. I often say that I have given away more Rosaries than I’ve made. An exageration but it makes my point. Sometimes, like Jesus, we are faced with someone who has experienced what the good news of the Gospel has to offer us, how the faith and the tradition of the church can help us answer that inner searching of who we are, what kind of person are we called to be by God. It is in these moments that it is important to be ready to offer such seekers something tangible to help them discover and give expression to the way God is calling to them in their lives.

One way to do this is to make a set of Rosaries for people whom you want to assure of your prayers, and help them find their prayer voice – give away more Rosaries than you make.

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