Japanese Prayer

Japanese Prayer

Slow down and speak English


I stare down at my small hands, fingers interlaced in prayer, as our family sits at the kitchen table for supper, the one meal of the day we eat together.

Prodded by the smells of delicious calories spread out before us, we quickly begin our short prayer.

I assume the prayer is one my Mom introduced to the family because we say it in Japanese. And while I do know a sukoshi amount of Japanese, I learned this passage by memorizing it phonetically. I keep meaning to ask what the words mean, but as the youngest of six kids, I do know enough to not delay food delivery to my elders. 

We rush through the ancient prayer and I imagine the samurai warrior ancestors chanting these same words before charging off to battle. I know it has deep, rich, historical significance. 

The time has come to learn more.

“Mom, what does our prayer mean?”

My siblings look at me with gratitude for asking my question after we had started eating.

“It’s us inviting Jesus to eat with us and asking Him to bless our food.”

“Which words mean what?” I want a little language lesson with my meal.

My siblings look at me with concern.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, which words invite Jesus?  Which words ask for His blessing?”

My parents join my siblings with their looks of concern.

My Mom employs the indirect Socratic method of education, “Honey, why don’t you say the prayer and listen as you do.” 

Having had a larger lunch than usual and hungry only for this Japanese lesson, I put down my fork, fold my hands and begin, “Comlor geesus beyour gest.

Mom cuts me off, “Make sense?”

“So, which part is that?”

“That’s the part that invites Jesus.”

“So which words mean what?”

My siblings put down their forks, mesmerized by this language-lesson entertainment.

“Honey, you just said it, ‘Come - Lord - Jesus - be  - our - guest.’”

Holy bushido!

Every day for YEARS, I had been praying a prayer in English so fast that I thought it was an entirely different language.

The answer to the very thing I was curious about was coming out of my own mouth. It just never dawned on me to slow down and listen.

In a way, I’m glad I had that language lesson so many years earlier. There are so many times when I’m confused or curious about something and the solution often lies in slowing down and listening.

The answer isn’t always resident in my own brain or mouth but that 13-word Japanese prayer in English reminds me to stop and take a slower look at the feeling I’m having or the challenge I’m facing.

There are a lot of proven benefits to slowing down (not just a linguistic one).

First off, in a world dominated by hustling, speed and worm-getting, slowing down is a great way to stand out.

Secondly, taking the time for reflection — to just be and not do (one ‘o’) — is a powerful way to get clarity on the task at hand as well as the larger picture. Taking a moment to step back and change perspective gives you a chance to make sure there aren’t other opportunities you’re missing while your head is down holding your nose to the grindstone.

You notice a lot more when you take the slower path. If the road diverges in a yellow wood, I’m not advocating taking the one less traveled by (but you’re a grown adult, you take whichever path you want). All I’m advocating is that whichever path you trod, you trod it slowly, even if you’ve trod it before.

There’s a calm that comes with slowing down. Of course, the calm comes better when it has a proper environment to rear its peaceful head. So find a place where you can close your eyes, be quiet and just listen, even if for just a few seconds. And when the light turns green, the driver in the car behind you will surely honk to let you know it’s time to stop stopping. Don’t let their rage ruin your newfound peace and calm. [note: author employs sarcasm as a style, not for actual advice … do not practice closed-eye meditation while operating a motor vehicle]

How you slow down it up to you. Heck, IF you slow down is up to you (reference aforementioned grown adult recognition). You can continue speaking a foreign language in your native tongue for the rest of your life, or slow down and realize you possess so many answers to the world of curiosities around you.

Slow down, make better decisions, be intentional and lower your stress.

And if you need the ancient prayer of the Samurai, might I offer, “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest. And this food to us be blessed.”