Everybody had an opportunity to “adopt” a young person for the Thursday night prayer not too long ago at our church. The idea was for the kids to hear someone other than Mom or Dad pray for them personally, as well as encourage our adults to get a greater burden for the little ones.
Just about all of the kids were adopted, except one slightly built, shy blond headed American girl. All of a sudden an elderly Brazilian lady with a beautiful smile and shiny grey hair summoned Liberty to come sit by her. With some hesitation, she obeyed, and when she sat down she fully expected for Mrs. Teresa to start praying for her.
Yet that’s not what happened at all. Instead, while all of the other adults began praying quietly over their adopted children, one adoptive grandmother had a confession. She leaned over to the little 11 year-old and with great humility and complete honesty confessed, “I don’t know how to pray.”
Only recently had she begun to attend services at this new church. She had been raised Catholic and says frequently that she has always had a great faith in God, but she knows nothing about a spontaneous prayer.
She knows how to “rezar” which in Portuguese means to say the rosary or recite the “Our Father” but she hadn’t the faintest idea about how to “orar” which is the word we use for the conversations that we have the Lord. The second word means to pray, which is quite the opposite of repeating a traditional pre-determined series of religious requests that we have memorized through repetition.
“Will you teach me?” Teresa asked Liberty. So, with a child-like faith both began to pray with one another, the older with an eager desire to learn more about Jesus, repeating after her younger teacher.
Yesterday, I had an opportunity to spend some time with Mrs. Teresa or Dona Teresa as she is respectfully called here in Portugal. She told me all about learning how to pray from our daughter. She told me all about how much she enjoys coming to church and learning about the Bible because during all of her 70 years of attending the Catholic church, she never knew a priest who was able to explain the Bible so she could understand it. It makes sense at our church though.
I’m not sure if what I’m about to say will fit perfectly into your theology, so please forgive me if it doesn’t, but years ago something happened in this lady’s life that greatly altered it. She never called it salvation, and she never left the Catholic church.
Something took place in her life that caused her to place her faith in the Lord, and after I shared with her of the gospel of salvation yesterday, she told me all about when she believes that she began, as she put it, “to know Jesus more and more”. She explained in plain terms the transformation that took place in her heart years ago, and how it affected her demeanor and how it affected the way that she treated others, but she didn’t know how to verbalize what had happened inside her.
She comes to church when she’s physically able, and if it weren’t for her deathly fear of water, she would want to get baptized.
This dear lady who lived a rough life, suffering through much of it in her native Brazil doesn’t know all the right words. She doesn’t think that she knows how to pray properly. She’s never been baptized by immersion and may never be, but when Nina and I left her company yesterday evening, we both agreed that it appears as though she has a pure heart that has been changed by Jesus Christ.
While I want her to grow and to learn and to feel confident about things like prayer, I was pretty satisfied to be reminded once more – it’s God work and He doesn’t need me to do it.