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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Bendición – A Blessing

Written by: on January 24, 2015

A Guidebook to Prayer is a rich, spiritual guide that invites the reader to discover, grow and strengthen their prayer life. In her book, MaryKate Morse is masterful in teaching the reader to engage in twenty-four ways to walk with God by experiencing different ways of praying. This is not my first experience with this book. I have used it many times in my devotional and prayer time. However, this time, as I was reading the chapter on blessing prayer I found myself remembering an experience throughout my childhood.

When I was growing up, it was customary to ask for “la bendición” (the blessing) before I left the house. And my parents would always respond with “Dios te bendiga, (God bless you) and then they would kiss me. To this day, when I talk to my parents on the phone the first thing I say is, “Bendición, mami/papi.” And their response is still, “Dios te bendiga, mi hija”(God bless you, my daughter.) This same custom was passed down to my son and daughter. Although they did not always ask for “la bendición” they would say, “hi mom, and give me a kiss” to which I would respond with, “God bless you.”

So what is significant about “la bendición”? In reflecting on the Scriptures, I noticed that blessing and pronouncing blessing on others is an important part of the scriptures.   The patriarchs of the Old Testament blessed their children. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob released God’s blessings upon their children by laying hands on them and speaking forth the blessings.

This continues to be a practice in the Jewish tradition. Every week as the sun sets on Friday evening the Jewish holiday of Shabbat begins. Traditionally Shabbat includes special blessings that are said over the children on Friday night. How these blessings are said varies from home to home. Customarily it is the father who blesses the children by laying his hands on their heads and blessing them.[1] They continue to bless their children in the same way the patriarchs of the Old Testament did. (Genesis 27:27-29, 38-40; 48:14-16). Blessing prayers gives us opportunities to love others and hold them before God in prayer.[2]

In Hebrew, the word for blessing is berakah,[3] which has to do with the declaration or the public announcement of blessings. When someone leaves and says, “God bless you,” this is berakah. It is this kind of blessing that God gives Abraham as he calls him away from everything he knows into a new land. This kind of blessing is both an approval and a promise. Yet, the blessing of God on Abraham doesn’t just stop with Abraham. It extends beyond the original declaration. God says, “… I will bless you and make your name great so that you will be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2). Just as God blessed Abraham and called him to bless others, we too are invited to receive God’s blessing and bless others.

In her blessing prayer guidelines Morse points out that we are all called to be God’s blessers to a suffering world. Therefore, one of our duties is to pray for and bless others wherever we go and among whomever we meet.[4] As a community of faith, one of the ways we practice the blessing prayer is by writing cards to mothers who are held in the ICE detention center in Tacoma, Washington. We wrote words of encouragement, words of hope, and words of blessings to mothers who found themselves separated from their children. Our community was challenged to pray for those who were suffering from the injustices of the system. The writing of the cards involved the entire community, women, men, youth and children. It was amazing to see children draw pictures that would show the loving care of Christ to them. Blessing prayers calls a community to be kind and compassionate to the least of these. On the day before Mother’s Day our community would gather with people from different faith traditions and together ride a bus to the Tacoma Detention Center. In a spirit of solidarity we would stand outside the detention center and hold a prayer vigil for the mothers in the detention center. Those who gathered at the site would collect the written cards and hand them to the persons who were able to go in to the center. Perhaps this may seem like a small task, but the writing of the cards, prayer vigil and ride to the detention center opened the eyes, hearts and minds of many in our faith community who otherwise would not have known about the situation. This simple act challenged many in the community of faith to learn and become involved with issues of injustices not only on Mother’s Day but every single day.

As Morse states, “blessing prayers in local community are part of our incarnational presence to the concerns and needs of others. We don’t pray and run. We pray and work to restore.[5] We are blessed so that we can bless others.

[1] http://judaism.about.com/od/judaismbasics/a/Blessing-The-Children-On-Shabbat.htmn (Accessed on 1/22/15)

[2] MaryKate Morse, “A Guidebook to Prayer: Twenty-Four Ways To Walk with God,” (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013), p. 69.

[3] http://biblehub.com/hebrew/1293.htm (Accessed on 1/22/15).

[4] MaryKate Morse, “A Guidebook to Prayer: Twenty-Four Ways to Walk with God,” (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013), pg. 69.

[5] Ibid., 69.

About the Author

Miriam Mendez

13 responses to “Bendición – A Blessing”

  1. mm John Woodward says:

    Miriam, what a beautifully written and heartfelt post. I absolutely love your image of the benediction, especially of your parents giving you the blessing as you leave the house. This concept of passing on the blessing as you describe from the OT is an idea that I have found powerful for my own children. Though they did not asked for the benediction, it has been my goal as a parent to give my children the blessing – that they would know the love of God through my love and care for them. It was high standard I set for my parenting. This same goal is what I believe our work as Christ-followers should be for the wider world. I love how you state it: we called us to “blessers to a suffering world.” That is such a wonderful statement. I believe that blessing a suffering world would be no different than blessing our children – doesn’t this require a closeness and personal approach, for how else will they know the love and care of Jesus if not through our love and care. I often tell people there are two kinds of caring: Caring at a distance (write a check, give your old clothing, but never actually have to meet the people you are seeking to care for) or caring up-close (face-to-face, hands on, in their world). I wonder, can we really be blessers without coming close? Thanks for your willingness to be blesser to a suffering world, Miriam. Again, your post was a great encouragement!

    • Richard Volzke says:

      John,
      I like your definition of caring. I see caring at a distance played out in church all the time. In many churches, 90 percent of the people watch the other 10 percent doing the work. This is sad, because many of our congregational members are missing out on God’s blessings in their lives. I do understand that not everyone is called to work directly with others, and that God has blessed some to financially give to God’s work. However, I believe that most of us are called to get our hands dirty with God’s work.
      Richard

  2. mm Stefania Tarasut says:

    This is beautiful Miriam! I read about the power of a blessing a few years ago so I got in the habit of saying a blessing over the my niece and nephew every time I see them. I’m moved to tears every time I do it.

  3. Telile Fikru Badecha says:

    Hi Miriam, What a beautiful custom of blessing one another you have in your family. In my family, we too have a custom of saying a short prayer before we leave the house and when we return. It certainly raises our awareness of God’s presence and protection over us. I love what your faith community is doing to bless those women. Like you, I do believe that it is our Christian call to find ways to be a blessing for those in need. Thank you for your insights.

  4. mm rhbaker275 says:

    Miriam,
    Thanks for your post. It has been great reading all of the posts and hearing the special and meaningful experiences on the ways our personal prayer life has helped us engage in Christian Living. MaryKate states, “Through prayer we know who we truly are and who this God is who loves us” (Kindle, 138). Your personal experience in exchanging Bendición in your family setting is heartwarming. I love these stories that show how faith engages us though our heritage and culture.

    To experience God’s blessing is to embrace God’s love and peace. I like how MaryKate relates this in the context of Isaiah 46:4 – God declares his blessings from the time of conception until we have “grey hairs;” to uphold and carry, to sustain and rescue us. “Growing up loved and cherished is a fundamental need for all of us. … When we embrace God’s love we experience peace and have access to God’s wisdom; we see the world as God sees the world” (115-1131). Thank you for sharing the special ways that through prayer “We are blessed so that we can bless others.”

  5. mm Ashley Goad says:

    Miriam, I am in awe of you, yet again. I love the tradition you had with your parents and the lifelong affect it has had on your relationship with them. In Uganda, my kids say, “God is good, all the time, all the time, God is good…and that’s His nature…WOW!” Truly it is a “wow” moment to receive God’s blessing through our family and community of believers. When blessings and prayer are at the cornerstone of our relationships, it adds a whole new level of intimacy and love. Wow. Just wow. 🙂

  6. mm Julie Dodge says:

    Thank you for this, Miriam. My friends in Nicaragua always start every letter to me with the greeting “Bendiciones.” I always thought of it more as just habit/tradition than much of anything else; that it was the Christian way to greet one another. Reading your post, and MK’s book, brought another perspective to this.

    It’s interesting how God works. I haven’t really had much exposure to the concept of blessings in my life. But over the past few years, as I pray for different people, or even post birthday wishes on people’s Facebook timelines, I have found myself praying or writing blessings over people. Not intentionally – it just comes out that way. I hope that is a reflection of how God changes us through prayer – that we act and grow in different ways even when we don’t know it.

    Thanks for your post and stimulating still more thought in me.

  7. mm Clint Baldwin says:

    Thank you for this beautiful reflection on blessing(s), Miriam.
    We are called to bless and not curse.
    It’s odd to actually write the opposite of bless. Curse. It’s such a harsh word; it carries connotations that feel to me like sharp rusty metal waiting to infect someone with tetanus.
    On the other hand, blessings seem to carry with it the sound of healthily flowing and refreshing waters.
    Called to be ambassadors of reconciliation. How can one do such without blessing people over and over again?
    Blessings to you.

  8. Miriam…
    There have been a few times when I have read something that permeates with God’s presence, but very few. But your words do … this is Holy ground. Perhaps it is so because it draws upon our vocation and remembers who we are and what we are to be for others. I am also challenged because I live near Tacoma….

    Blessings my friend….

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