Teach me to Pray: Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer

This is a series of poems I wrote this spring reflecting on the Lord’s Prayer through the lens of my everyday life in Korea. It was a powerful spiritual exercise for me. To consciously pray through the details of the world around me and to see the glory of God again and again. (I posted the first one, Our Father in Heaven, here).


eunni, oppa, dongsaeng, seonsaengnim, halmoni

No one needs a name tag here. We walk the streets as family,
connected in a way that makes me want to stoop down
and pick up the wallet you dropped and hand it back to you.

You have a name.
I’ve heard it through the television, through the telephone, through
the formal introductions never separate from your relationship to me.

I wouldn’t say it out loud.

Never born, never going to die.
This is the eternal song of the One whose name doesn’t change.
He calls us (all) Friend
His name is everything we need:

I am


On the corner, four-foot popsicles cover the old convenience shop windows.
Discount ice cream signs are installed quickly,
the store is cleared out, swept out, shelves replaced by freezers.

We can’t walk by without going in.

This is the world in it’s place
with variety and color and every flavor of ice cream.
I’ll have chocolate and vanilla. Would you like sweet potato? Green tea mochi?

We lean over freezers, trying to decide which ice cream bar we should buy.
All is right.


On the playground near the fire station, three girls
play kindly together.
“Gongjunim, bbali wa!” (princess, come quick!)
These girls are not petty.
Not careful in their dresses and tights and buckled shoes.
They run through the sand, turn on the water fountain,
spray the front of their clothes.
Their hands are filthy, but they are not concerned
with cleanliness or perfection.
They are not interested in a show.

They play and play and play

until their mothers come with scolding faces and bicycles
with extra seats on the back,
ending their playdate in the castle,
ending their time in the sand.

Bamboo is propped up to the right of the playground,
standing tall with the help of wooden braces.
The drain by the fountain swirls with water ready to escape.

Across the way firefighters train for their next rescue.
They start the motor of the safety raft in the
parking lot behind the station.
They lift the tallest ladder and start to climb.


My husband taught me to divide freshly cooked rice into four sections
before scooping it into bowls.
To mindfully make the sign of the cross
in gratitude and remembrance.

My mother always did this, he tells me.

I imagine her hands today,
decades of nourishment raking through murky rice-water,
rinsing ssal until the liquid runs clear.

There were times her family went without,
when the rice was low but she found a way to
fill the bellies of her children anyway.
She combined the rice with barley or another
stretching grain, and suddenly there was enough.

There is always just enough.

It is foreign to my framework of abundance,
but I prayerfully copy the motion:
give us this day our daily bread.


At the subway elevator, elderly men and women shuffle
past my double stroller
to make their way inside.
Occasionally they look back sympathetically
at my arms holding a baby and pushing two big kids
at the same time.
It must be hard, they say to each other as the doors close
swiftly, like a window screen sliding into place,
keeping all the bugs and bees and birds
out of the house.


On Sunday Morning

I sit in first service
under the mid-morning sun as it glistens
through tiny buds and new leaves,
through the breeze still chilly.

I watch my son ladle sand into his dump truck and toy stock pot,
alternating containers as he
scoops through damp piles.
A tile mural fills a short wall behind him like
stained glass in a sanctuary, depicting flowers
and butterflies in a colorful mosaic,
jewel tone squares reflecting light.

Sitting next to my sleeping baby in the stroller,
I feel the satisfaction of the worship chorus.
Of slamming car doors, fire alarms beeping,
the scraping metal of the apartment
construction site next door.
I hear tiny tennis shoes brushing along
the brick walkway, slowly scraping flecks of sand
beneath them.

An offering of gratitude pools in my hands
as I wash them in the water fountain.
The mystery of being loved and known
cleanses off the dirt of obligation.
I sense the baby’s breathing even though
it’s much too soft to hear over the birds gently
chirping and the traffic zooming by.

The playground chorus repeats as Sunday cars
rush stuffy families with their giant Bibles
all the way
to church.


Gray clouds smear across the stormy sky like dark fingerprints
smudged on a dull piece of paper.
Outside the window it’s raining pollution.

Umbrellas bob with footsteps, disks rounded down over morning-heads walking to work.

There is so much work to do.

We step out into the gloom and dark,
underneath a makeshift shelter.

A thin piece of nylon covers our heads.


My daughter asks at the dinner table
what it means to have authority.

In the back room the kids retell famous stories:
“I am Goliath! Who is going to kill me?”

This is our place in the world, as darkness slayers, as healers,
recognizing evil and committing to its defeat.

As sons and daughters of the King,
there is never any doubt in tiny minds that we are

inhabitants of another Kingdom.


Speak the truth in love and you will find
love is the only way to speak.
Maybe you want to hear yourself say something profound, but there is no
profundity in spring.
We’ve seen it before. Last year and the year before.
We know the pace of women running umbrella-less in the rain.
We stand with mouths open like trap doors, thinking universal words of pleasure:
Beautiful! Magnificent! Lovely!
It is exactly what we need.
In all the beauty of its repetition
we bow down.


And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. Isaiah 40:5

When the time comes, each delicate cherry blossom is set in motion.
Soft hues of pink and sharp white petals stand out against an ice blue sky.

They congregate, and when the slightest wind blows, they fall.

This is also how we are: beautiful and fragile, vulnerable to the wind and rain.

This is how we interact, how we move as a unit
or get swept away.

This is our hearts collected. Grouped together.

Popping into the open air,
no longer able to stay tucked away in seclusion,
we behold the unstoppable glory of God.


There is no goodbye
may it be so
there is no ending to this conversation.
Your eyes will never close.

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