Praying is like breathing

Last Sunday morning a Jewish man sitting next to me on the plane from Tel Aviv to Newark asked me, “Do you mind if I pray?” I replied, “Certainly not, I would be be happy if your prayed.”

He stood up and got something out of the overhead compartment and readied himself for prayer. I’m not quite sure all he did, but I noticed he put leather straps around his arms. Then he sat down and read from a small prayerbook he had for about 15 minutes. The drone of the engine blocked out any words he might have said that I could understand.

Praying is like breathing. We all need to do it. I used to bring out my small prayerbook on flights like that, but it got so cumbersome that I use a small rosary I keep in my pocket to pray.

Years ago, I remember on a flight from St. Louis to New York City a young Afro-American girl sat next to me. I opened my prayerbook to say my prayers, and I heard a  soft southern voice saying to me, “Sir, could I read a psalm?”

“Sure,” I replied, “Why don’t we read a psalm together.” I turned to Psalm 22 “The Lord is my Shepherd” and we read it aloud as we took off.

Afterwards, she told me that was her favorite psalm. She looked like a young teen-ager, but she told me she was married and on her way to Germany to return to her husband who was in the military. She had just lost a baby and had gone home to her mother to look for some comfort.

“I’m looking at these beautiful clouds in the sky,” she said, “and I remember one day after I lost my baby I had a dream and I saw the Lord like a Shepherd in clouds like these, holding my little baby.”

When we landed in Kennedy, I noticed she was struggling to pull out a big package from the overhead compartment and tried to  help her. ”It’s very heavy,” I said.

“It’s a computer, “ she answered, “I’m going to learn how to use it.” And she went off to the International departures.

Praying is like breathing; if we do it, we live.

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