by Catherine Maresca
I sat down with Ben, age 6, to introduce him to the parable of the Insistent Friend, about a person who has an unexpected guest in the middle of the night and goes to his neighbor for bread. The neighbor refuses to get up, but the host continues to ask/knock until the neighbor gets up and hands him “what he needs”. Jesus told the parable, along with the Lord’s Prayer, in answer to a request from his followers about how to pray.
After Ben began to work with the material I asked him, “If this is a parable about prayer, who in this parable could be God?” Ben, pointed to the one knocking. Like many children he was disappointed in the neighbor with bread refusing to get up and steered away from comparing this person to God. Still moving figures and focused on his work, Ben explained that the bread is like prayers and “God” is knocking on the door asking for our prayers. We refuse at first, but then get up and give God our prayers.
Moments like this are a treasure. While the host has been compared to God many times by children, none had added that the “bread was like prayers.” I am turning that metaphor over in my heart-mind. Ben’s insight can lead us all to deeper prayerfulness.
As Lent begins this week, many of are conscious of taking on a practice to help us prepare for Easter, as well as our own death and resurrection. We may seek a penitential practice, or a temporary discipline, such as fasting. After listening to Ben, I wondered if I should just give God what God wants: my prayers. There are as many kinds of prayers as bread. Sweet breads, breads made with different grains, festive breads such as challah, traditional breads like Irish soda bread (had to work that in for St. Patrick’s Day) or naan, flat breads, sandwich breads, soft dinner rolls, chewy hard rolls, the bread of Eucharist and more. Most agree that in whatever form it is enjoyed, bread is a staple of life. Shared bread is communion. And prayer is also a staple and communion.
Ours prayers can match our need, our mood, the family or community gathered, the attentive individual, the season, orthe occasion. They can be sung, read or recited words, silence, wonder, gesture or posture, joyful or tearful or peaceful. There is a “bakery” of prayer to explore during Lent. Stop there as you begin each day and choose just the right bread for your day, to be shared with God and perhaps with others. God is asking for our prayers.
Original Scripture Booklet art by Anna Gilbert, age 12.