What I Want You to Know About Prayer

“Hey Dad,” you say as you are getting ready for bed. “I learned the Act of Contrition prayer. Want to hear it?”

“Sure,” I answer, readying myself. This is the part of your Catholic school education that I fear. The guilt. The shame. The forced piety. Learning prayers and memorizing them the same way you memorize multiplication tables or grammatical rules like “I before E, except after C.”

“My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his name, my God, have mercy.”

You say all the words, carefully and correctly. You’ll ace your religion test, no doubt.

But what have you learned? Anything about authenticity? Anything about self-acceptance? Anything about being a kid?

I wonder.

After thinking about this for a minute, I ask you, “Do you want to hear my Act of Contrition prayer?”

“Sure,” you answer, uncertain.

“Dear God, I’m seven. Sometimes I do things that seven-year-olds do. Maybe those aren’t always the best choices, but I try my best. Hope you understand. Amen.”

You give me a puzzled look.

“Do you think God would like that prayer?” I ask.

“I guess,” you say with a shrug.

I guess so, too.

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