As of late, I have been going through it. Not that anything in my life is particularly awful. Just a series of small unfortunate events. A death here, an illness there. Add potty training twins and kids with bad report card grades, and it’s enough to send you to the bottle!
And I let myself get stuck in the muck of my own life. It’s super easy to do. You just wallow in self pity. “Yes, I’m the pity party, table for ONE.” I’m also super good at masking my issues, so I kind of suck them all down and eat them, leaving just a little crack for the enemy to sneak in my ear and start to whisper what an awful human being I am. And I listen. I stop writing daily. I stop praying daily. I start yelling more and letting every little thing pile and pile.
One Sunday, I had to teach the Parish Religious Education Program (PREP) class at church. To fourteen 8th graders. I was not interested in this at all. In fact, I almost tried to get out of it. But I didn’t. So here I am at church, waiting for my students to come to class, just absolutely hating every minute leading up to it. They all arrived, and we sat and watched the video and talked openly. I tried to really hone in on how important it is to pray and have a relationship with Jesus. When I asked how many pray daily, only a few raised their hands. When I asked who goes to church each Sunday, one girl said, “We only go on Christmas and Easter.”
I was kind of stunned. It felt like a gut punch that there’s zero fulfillment outside of the classroom for some of these kids. No formation of faith besides this short class. So I really wanted to make sure they knew that praying doesn’t have to be these organized dances we do with God. “He sees the beauty in our broken prayers.” I told each kid that I pray for them and invited them to pray for me.
I will stop my life constantly to pray for this person or that issue, but I never really find myself requesting prayer for…myself! I neglect my prayer life or need of prayer from others because I figure God knows. So I led a prayer that was not just an Our Father or Hail Mary, and I asked the kids what they needed prayer for, and they all generally said “my parents.” This was a from-the-guts prayer for them and myself and their lives and mine. And I said one last time, “Hey guys, send up a prayer for me too, if you’re feeling it.” I left, they left. See ya again next week.
But then I went home and started to research ways to get kids more interested in prayer. Because truly, through prayer, you can grow a relationship with Jesus from absolutely nothing. Literally. No faith to 100x faith in one prayer. It’s all it takes. I found a method to try out the next week. Sunday at 4 p.m. rolled around again, only this Sunday I was just coming off antibiotics from a bout of strep, so once again I had zero interest in being here. I am pretty sure I had a fever because I was the only person in long pants and sweater. The class went on as it does, and the kids were a mixture of interested and not.
When we were journaling, which is a part of the class, I asked them all to rip out a piece of paper from their book. I explained that last week I had asked them to tell me their issues for prayer in front of a bunch of—let’s face it—judgmental teenagers like them. So, I asked them to honestly write their prayer on that piece of ripped paper and I put it inside of a box. When it was time for our ending prayer, I collected their folded scraps (which every student did write) and I put them inside of the box. After that, I prayed and asked God to read each intention in this box for each student and myself. All of these kids seemed super surprised because I wasn’t praying like a “Catholic person”; I was praying like a regular human. They all bowed their heads and quieted and listened. I took all of those little scraps after the Amen and threw them in the trash so they could see that I wasn’t going to read them.
After class, one student was overly eager to leave. As she dashed out, I wished her a good week ahead, and she bolted. As I was collecting the books, I picked hers up and leafed through it. To my surprise, she was actually journaling! Albeit every other word was “like” or “whatever,” but she did put real thought into her answers. They each have a bookmark inside their book, and so I wrote on hers and gave her my phone number in case she ever felt like she needed it.
Hopefully, I am making some sort of impact. Hopefully, God is using me as a voice or pencil to write in their minds what it is He wants for them. Love. Because that is all He has.
Be safe, be great, be you! Amen.
Reality Changing Observations:
1. How can we help today’s youth feel comfortable having a relationship with God?
2. What are some ways you use prayer in your life?
3. When you are struggling do you ever reach out to others to pray? Why or why not?