how a prayer flag helped me learn to pray again after toxic prayers poisoned me

by rebecca on January 15, 2010

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Friday is the day I give something away. I make something to help me create an altared space in my life and offer you the opportunity to find an altared space in yours. Enter the random drawing by commenting here or by sending me something for my garden. Entries are due by Thursday.


       I am giving away a prayer flag this week. I am doing that because it was a prayer flag that helped me find the way to pray when I could not. I had prayers spoiled for me at a relatively young age and little prayer flags like this one gave me a chance to try again. It gave me space, wide open space, like the ether of the snow, to have my prayers be something new.

       I grew up praying as naturally as breathing. In my Presbyterian Church I sang Jesus Loves the Little Children. All the little children of the world, red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.

       Then, as I grew older, in that same church I held hands in a circle and listened while someone prayed, “Lord, give us your words to fill our mouths that we might save the heathen Catholics.” The speaker meant save them from eternal damnation in a fiery hell where God sends people because they haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.

       While I listened to the heathen Catholic prayer I was sitting next to my boyfriend, holding his hand as well. He was kind enough to attend my church that day instead of the Catholic Church where he typically said mass.

        That was the day praying became an effort for me. I was still young, so I did pray for many years, but eventually, I gave up, too tired to hold something so beautiful and so full of toxicity in my mouth simultaneously.

       I, too, have been self-righteous in my life. I have looked down my nose at people who don’t recycle (even though I have been known to throw glass jars away when I’m too lazy to wash out the peanut butter). It bothers me when people spend wastefully, but I love my lattes, and I never hesitate if I want an extra shot. Even my kids sense when I’m scorning someone who won’t get enough exercise.

I think religion taught me very well to be a hypocrite, but maybe it’s simply human nature and I’d have learned on my own. Religion also taught me about Jesus loving children of all different colors, faiths and family origins. I better hold my breath when it comes to pointing fingers.

       This is why I love my prayer flags. I got a second chance to believe in prayer. When my brother-in-law was in a near fatal car accident we had people half way around the world praying, and it felt wonderfully supportive. I have taught my children to tell me the things for which they are grateful on a daily basis. I believe this is prayer.

       When I arrived at my new home and saw the expanse of stars I was to live under because there are no city lights here to get in the way, I was filled with wonder, and a deep sense of awe penetrated my skin. Tears poured from my eyes. I hung these feelings from my prayer flag.

       I lived in a draught of prayers for many, many years. I couldn’t pray because I was terrified my prayers would alienate someone the way the heathen-Catholic-prayer had alienated my boyfriend. He kindly came to church with me to reach across boundaries so we wouldn’t be kept apart. Then he was kicked in the shin.

Prayer should unite us, not divide us. Prayer should heal not wound. Prayer should bring to my heart a fountain of reverence that refreshes not a soapbox for me to elevate myself as more righteous than the next.

When I was introduced to prayer flags it was with gentleness and space. There will be time for that story later. Here I will simply say this: I got to start over.

There is space for me to make a prayer flag one square at a time. I meditate as I string those squares together. As I hang the flag, inside or out, this gives me a tangible place to see something beautiful and it reminds me I’m grateful for color. I’m grateful for texture.

Tiny things like color and texture work magic on me. They ask me to be larger. Be more kind today, Rebecca. Bring more gentleness to each moment. Be mindful of the differences between you and another and how that contributes to the overall beauty of the tapestry. Enjoy.

There are a great deal of differences in our nation as well as our world: Muslim, Hindu, Jew, Sufi. We all pray a bit differently. I am so glad. I think it is these differences that add to my understanding of the face of God. Because I still believe the song I first learned, Jesus loves the little children. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.

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Lynn Tidd January 19, 2010 at 7:57 pm

My two year old taught me the most beautiful form of prayer I have yet to witness. My cousin was here for a visit sometime after his wife had died. Each time we sat down to dinner he wanted to hold hands and give thanks. He is a warm and effusive individual and his prayers reflect that. A couple weeks after his visit, my granddaughter, Ava, was sitting at the dinner table with the rest of us. In the middle of the meal, she asked if we could hold hands and say “thanks”. So, we all held hands and I asked her what she wanted to say thank you for. She looked around the room, picked out an object and named that. We all replied loudly, “thank you for the candle!” and then threw our hands up in the air and cheered and said thank you again. Another item would be named and we would say thank you in the same manner. We do this numerous times throughout any given meal. It is the most pure, spontaneous, grateful form of prayer I have witnessed and I thank Ava for giving that to me.


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