Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Prayer on Tamale Tuesday

As I sat in my office this morning I started to hear a bit of commotion in the church hall.  There were tables and chairs being moved around and people greeting each other.  When I looked at my calendar I realized that today is Tamale Tuesday.

On the third Tuesday of every month a Spanish speaking
congregation that shares space with us spends the day making tamales, which they will sell this evening to raise funds for their church. There are both women and men here sharing all the work - cutting, mixing, sorting out the corn husks, and stirring.  In a few hours they will start rolling the tamales.  There will be pork tamales and chicken and sweet corn meal and sometimes they make tamales that are filled with corn meal and cheese wrapped around a large pepper.  I'm not sure what they're called, but I really like those pepper tamales.  

Before they begin all that, however, they pray.  They will gather in a circle, the pastor will say something like "let us pray" and they begin.  When I say "they" I mean all of them.  Each and every person in that circle will pray out loud at the same time that everyone else is praying, saying his or her own prayer from the heart, giving thanks and praise to God and asking God's blessing on the work they will do today.  When I say "out loud" I mean that there is no mumbling, no hesitancy, no wondering what everyone else is saying.  They lift their voices together with confidence, with as much energy as my congregation puts forth when singing a well-loved hymn.

I remember how surprised I was the first time I experienced this kind of praying.  I'm used to having the pastor or some other leader praying out loud while everyone else stands there silently.  Sometimes someone will respond to the pray-er with a "Praise God" or "Thank you Jesus" or "Yes Lord."  But most of the time they just listen and let the leader pray on their behalf.   Now and then a circle will pray the same prayer in unison in that sort of sing-song way we tend to use for memorized prayers and poems. 

So you can understand my confusion the first time I stood in a prayer circle with a group of Spanish speaking Christians.  It took a couple of experiences with this new thing before I was totally comfortable with praying out loud while everyone else was praying, but I grew to like it.  It started making a lot of sense to me that each individual would give thanks and ask God's blessing on their work.  It makes sense that when a group of people are asking God for help for one of their number that each will lift up their own individual plea for that person.  This is the priesthood of all believers in action.

I don't get many opportunities to join my Spanish speaking sisters and brothers in prayer.  But you can be sure that when I hear those prayers begin on Tamale Tuesday I drop whatever I'm doing and pray along.

1 comment:

revhipchick said...

Absolutely beautiful! Thank you for sharing!