And he took the children in his arms,
put his hands on them and blessed them.
Sometimes prayer is receiving God’s blessing. Sometimes prayer is allowing Jesus to gently place his hands on us and speak words of blessing over us.
To bless someone is to envision a positive future for them. It is to speak of the promise of God’s care and provision throughout their lives.
We often envision the future in frightening ways. It is not always easy for us to think of the future as a place where God will meet us with grace, help and love. But God, in Jesus, stretches out his loving hands over us and speaks words of blessing and hope, showing us a future that is full of promise.
To bless someone is also to speak words of affirmation over them. It is to verbalize belief in the person being blessed. It is to say specifically what one sees that is good and hopeful in the person.
Too often we see ourselves through eyes of shame and judgement or, in an attempt to defend against this pain, we may see ourselves through grandiose lenses. God’s blessing is an antidote both to our negative self assessments and to our grandiose defenses. God’s blessing over us is a reminder that we are loved, that we can rest in the presence of the One who made us and sustains us.
Rachel Remen, in her book My Grandfather’s Blessings, wrote about how her grandfather would bless her with words of affirmation every week:
My grandfather would set two candles on the table and light them. Then he would have a word with God in Hebrew….When Grandpa finished talking to God, he would turn to me and say, ‘Come, Neshume-le.’ Then I would stand in front of him and he would rest his hands lightly on top of my head. He would begin by thanking God for me and for making him my grandpa. He would specifically mention my struggles during that week and tell God something about me that was true. Each week I would wait to find out what that was. If I had made mistakes during the week, he would mention my honesty in telling the truth…If I had taken even a short nap without my night light, he would celebrate my bravery in sleeping in the dark.(Rachel Remen, My Grandfather’s Blessings, Riverhead Books, New York, 2000, pp 22-23.)
This story of Rachel’s grandfather blessing her so specifically and intimately is a powerful picture of what God does for us. God blesses us. God speaks words of affirmation. God speaks to us about our infinite value. God shows us a future in which God is always with us, providing for us, helping us and empowering us to be all we were meant to be.
This is what God, in Jesus, did for the children. It is what Jesus opens his arms and heart to do for all of us.
You bless me.
I too often envision a future
that is frightening.
But you speak words
of promise and hope to me.
I often see myself through eyes of fear
as never good enough,
and at other times through grandiose lenses
as anything but your humble, dependent child.
But you speak words
of affirmation to me,
reminding me of your work in me,
reminding me of my growth in love and grace,
teaching me to be the much loved child I am.
You bless me, God.
Help me to receive your blessing.
Sit quietly. Allow yourself to be a child, standing in front of Jesus or in Jesus’ arms. Listen for the words of hope and affirmation Jesus is speaking over you. Allow yourself to receive this blessing.