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. 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.
In Hebrew, the word for blessing is berakah, 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. 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. We are blessed so that we can bless others.
 http://judaism.about.com/od/judaismbasics/a/Blessing-The-Children-On-Shabbat.htmn (Accessed on 1/22/15)
 MaryKate Morse, “A Guidebook to Prayer: Twenty-Four Ways To Walk with God,” (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013), p. 69.
 MaryKate Morse, “A Guidebook to Prayer: Twenty-Four Ways to Walk with God,” (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013), pg. 69.
 Ibid., 69.