Should a person walk through our halls any given morning, they would be witness to our collective daily routine – that of morning prayer. Classrooms will recite our traditional prayers, special prayers, or personal prayers. Often, classes will have ‘prayers of intention’, and, as in the Mass, these prayers are an opportunity for an individual to verbally pray for someone, asking all who are gathered to take the prayer to the Lord. In most classrooms, this is part of the daily prayer ritual, and perhaps are the most powerful and prayerful experiences of the day. Students volunteer a prayer for someone – whether it be family, friends, or sick puppies – and the class joins in their support with the response, ‘Lord, hear our prayer.’ The level of trust in a classroom is astounding, as the students often open their hearts in asking the Lord for His mercy on sick family members, family travel, big tests coming up, and many more deeply emotional prayers that come forth very willingly and openly. Teachers have many experiences with the compassionate blanket that will settle over the room as a child prays for loved ones, and asks friends to pray for them too. One such moment came among us just a few weeks ago. One of our children asked the Lord to bring comfort and good health to a grandma who was gravely ill. Her prayer was as intensely private as it was in its rawness, open to classmates and teacher. Her words were choked with tears as she asked the Lord’s help for her grandma. As she spoke, the children quietly began to gather round her, and in a spontaneous, loving gesture, the child felt the hands of her classmates laying upon her in a most profound and reverent way. She was not alone in her prayer – her friends were there, too.
These are moments that teachers treasure, and they really are not all that rare. Children often bring their troubles to morning prayer, and we are able to pray for them, and gain a glimpse into the lives outside school that are much more complicated than they may seem in the routine and rush of the school day. For some children, as Christmas draws near, their level of anxiety peaks, and as teachers we see some real stress that emerges in what should be a carefree and happy time for kids.
As adults approaching these over-subscribed Advent weeks, it’s important that we, too take time every day to pray for others – not only those who are in urgent need of assistance, but those who, on the surface may appear to be chugging along very well. A bit of real reflection may lead a person to realize that all may not be as it appears – something is missing. An out-of-character comment, a new habit of avoidance, a surprising reaction to a harmless situation may all be indicative of a friend harboring some anxiety over Christmas expectations and unknowns that are becoming simply overwhelming. There exists the opportunity not only to pray for a friend, but to be a friend.
Every morning, you’ll hear us at prayer, and the children, with every bit of innocence and reverence in their souls, will keep praying – for friends, trips, puppies… and you. This Advent, receive their prayer, and pay it forward to those around you in this wonderful community. Look a little deeper, and make your Advent prayer one of hope, of help, and understanding.