Kneading Prayer

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"Kneading prayer" by Maggie Eisenbarth (CatholicMom.com)

Via Flickr (2014), CC BY 2.0

This morning my husband emptied the dishwasher and this afternoon as I loaded it I said a prayer of thanksgiving for him. I prayed for him and his generous heart. It made me think about all the times my mother must have done the very same thing. In her silence she must have said prayers for us and thanked God for all nine of us — so many years of folding, sweeping, mixing and scrubbing gone unnoticed, yet savored by Our Lord.

My mother taught me how to make bread. I would watch as she would knead it slowly yet forcefully back and forth over the marble table top. I love making bread, and I pray as I knead the dough. Rather than counting the minutes I keep track with the rosary; with every push of the heel of my hand and pull with my fingers I mix in my intentions: that the bread nourish my children with more than the nutrients of the grain. I pray until the bread dough is smooth, no longer tacky, and ready for a gentle rise.

I figure that praying must do a whole lot of good, more than the direction of my aimless thoughts, so I also water my garden with Hail Marys. It is in the everyday moments that I have learned to give my tasks to God. Consider folding laundry: it must be done, so as I line up sleeves, shake out wrinkles and make squares of cloth I thank God for his providence and for his protection for those whom he clothes and keeps warm in my home. I pray for those without all that I have and I pray for God to take away the feeling of lacking that sometimes creeps in.

My mother must have done the same; she was so often lost in thought, transfixed on something beyond me, beyond the bread, beyond the garden, and beyond the laundry room.

Unfortunately, she was criticized for her silence — criticized by me. I wanted engagement, interaction, her opinions, her thoughts, her comments, and I rarely, if ever, got them. As she was washing dishes, hanging clothes on the line, I wanted her attention. I can just see my 7-year-old self talking endlessly about every dream I had the night before, sharing every fleeting thought, spinning and twirling with ideas and energy as she went about quietly caring for her large family. I was utterly oblivious and insistent.

But what would I be like had she dominated every conversation? I can imagine I would be less curious, less adventurous, less confident had she needed the stage for herself. If my mother had never offered up her voice or sacrificed the need for her opinion to be heard, I may have never learned that I had one. If my mother had never toned down her own creative style, passion and drive, I may have never needed a reason to shine. If she had been the best at everything I may have questioned my capabilities and second-guessed my work. If she had expressed her deepest desires as needing to be fulfilled and suppressed mine I most likely wouldn’t have seen the “fight” worth fighting or the challenges worth conquering. She stepped back and let her children move forward.

Her strength is in her silent prayer. I can imagine she often felt discouraged, under appreciated and her good works (and good words) unnoticed yet her refuge into prayer has worked, has effected the one daughter that begged for her voice the most.

She taught me without a plan, without a scope, definitely without a sequence, and I learned by example. Her prayerfulness soaked into me and has nourished me. I pray my passions kindle the flame for following Christ within my children. I pray for my family, our path to heaven throughout the tasks of life. Taking the day from what may look mundane, to some, too contemplative.

“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. ” (Mt 6)

How many Hail Mary’s does it take to knead your bread, do your laundry, water your garden or make dinner? Do you pray in the mundane?

HONEY WHOLE WHEAT BREAD

Combine :

3 cups whole wheat flour
½ cup dry milk
1 TBS salt
2 pkg. dry yeast

Meanwhile heat in a pan:

3 cups water
½ cup honey
2 TBS oil

The liquid should be warm, not hot ( you should be able to dip your finger in it and not say, “ouch!” )

Mix with flour/yeast

Stir 1 cup of white flour at a time until you have mixed in 5 cups.

Knead, adding flour as needed until it is smooth.

Place in large greased bowl, flipping so all sides are greased.

Let rise in a warm spot with a clean cotton towel over it until it’s doubled in size.

Punch down, yes deflate it with your fist.

Separate into two loaves and place in greased bread pans.

Let rise again for 45 min.

Bake at 375 for 40-45 min.


Copyright 2017 Maggie Eisenbarth

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About Author

Maggie is the mother of nine children. She longs to do God’s will, seek His truth and wrap it all up in a life of joy, offering hope to others. Her family is living the simple life; community, bonfires, good food and nature. She is working on a memoir, writing about how God’s grace and His Church freed her from the bondage of our culture. Follow her on Instagram @ 11arrows11.

8 Comments

  1. I loved this too! So interesting! I just thought the above verse today in my head before I posted very publicly on Facebook. I made an announcement about how Jesus in the Eucharist lifted up at Mass is the highest form of prayer. We live in a saturated baptist area. I asked my friends to join me in spiritual communion for the sake of a loved one, of whom the Mass was being said. I still posted, even though the Holy Spirit probably brought that ‘go into your private prayer closet’ verse to mind. Oh well. Tomorrow is another day!

    Your Mom taught you well.

    • Susan, I think that asking friends to join you in prayer is beautiful, we need more communal prayer. It is sometimes challenging to discern when we are to evangelize, gather and when to retreat. How many times I go to sleep confident in tomorrow. Have you seen War Room? When I was a kid I knew families that had poustinias and I have always wanted one, a place of retreat. Don’t stop sharing the truth of the Eucharist! Peace to you, Maggie

    • Have you tried the King Arthur’s No Knead krusty bread recipe? Super easy and never disappoints. It is so satisfying knowing that flour, yeast, salt and water can nourish us and create an atmosphere of sharing. Bake on my friend! Maggie

  2. This made me cry, it reminded me so much of my mother, silent and prayerful and misunderstood. She suffered a lot in poverty for us.
    It is only as I grow closer to God that I understand her more and I am so grateful for her and the beautiful gift she gave us. She was also silent and prayerful throughout her struggle with cancer and was a wonderful example of how to abandon all to God’s will.
    I often apologise for not getting it and I pray that she hears me in heaven . Thank you for capturing my heart

    • Dear Clare,

      You probably have a story to tell, one that many do not understand but could be moved to greater goodness because of it. Anyone who lives in poverty learns not only hardship but also a deep understanding of reliance on God. We so often want what we imagine and get what is real. Know that your mother hears you and is actually closer to you now than she ever physically was. Her beautiful struggles gave you eyes to see and a heart to feel for others. God bless you, and start writing your story! Peace, Maggie

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