“Pray for us.” That’s how the educator greeted me when we saw each other during my early morning walk one day this week.
“Pray for us. We’re not okay. We’re trying, but I just think a lot of us are not okay.”
I shared that we had prayed for all the educators and students and parents during our worship service on Sunday—and that we would continue to do so. I said that I pray for them all the time.
We chatted for a few minutes … commiserated about our own children returning to school, and about the families we serve, and about the general sense of worry and discouragement that seems to pervade our lives these days. Why isn’t this over? Why does everything seem so awful? When will things ever not feel so out of sorts?
Presumably, this educator asked me to pray because I am known as “the minister” in the neighborhood where I live. “I think I was supposed to see you,” they said. “I was just thinking of you earlier today, thinking we could use your prayers.”
There is always a part of me—sometimes quieter, sometimes louder—that wants to correct a likely misunderstanding in these situations. It wants to say, “I probably don’t pray the way you expect. I probably don’t pray to your God. You might not really like my prayers.”
Thankfully, I’ve learned to tell that part of me to keep her mouth shut, and she was barely noticeable even in the privacy of my own head on that particular day. Because I know—I know—that our differences were not relevant in that moment. It doesn’t matter whether this educator and I agree about what qualifies as prayer. It doesn’t matter that the language and rituals of their family’s worship services are very different from the ones I lead. It doesn’t matter that members of their religious community might not think I’m legitimately clergy at all. It doesn’t matter that I don’t believe in a being named God who answers prayers.
What matters is that we stopped mid-walk and bore witness to one another—to the pain and the fear and the love and the hope that are shared across vocations, across faith traditions, across cultural differences.
What mattered in that moment is that we were human, together.
I am praying, all the time—for that educator and everyone in their care, for my own family, for human siblings whose lives have been upended by natural disaster, for my own need for courage in the face of rampant injustices, for all the joys and sorrows and heartbreak and pride that you share privately and publicly.
I pray for it all. Because we are human, together.
In loving prayer,