My mother, who was a native American, taught me all kinds of wonderful ways to pray when I was a child. A very special one was the Sacrifice Flower prayer, which she adapted from the heritage of her people, the Seneca Iroquois.
She taught me to say this prayer when I was feeling low or had a burden I wanted to lifted. Later, I learned to use it for happy occasions and when I had a special request I wanted to make of God.
Like all mothers, she could always tell when something was bothering me. She’d say to me, “All right, Jo, I think it’s time you went outside and find yourself a Sacrifice Flower. It’s time you get your burden lifted from your heart and give it to God.
So, I’d go looking for a flower. Sometimes Mother would go out with me to help me with my flower or talk about what was bothering me. Sometimes, too, she had something weighing on her heart and she would find a Sacrifice Flower of her own.
The flower was supposed to be special, one that meant a lot to me. As a girl, I picked dandelions, hollyhocks, and daises. So, I usually picked one of them. In addition, Mother said I was to be very careful with the flower because it had been selected for a holy purpose. I lovingly cupped it in my hands so nothing would happen to it.
When I got home, I did as my mother instructed and told the flower what burden I wanted lifted and taken to God. How was the flower to do this? Remember, this was a Sacrifice Flower, one that was going to die. The idea was that as life went out of the flower, it would carry my prayer to God.
That meant, of course, the flower was not to be placed in water. I had a shelf in my room that I liked to use for my Sacrifice Flower because it was sort of private and yet I could see it as I went in and out.
Everytime I saw the flower, I could see it giving its life for me and I could imagine my prayer being carried to the Lord. That was true even when I was elsewhere and was just thinking about the flower. Either way, I had a strong sense my prayer was being heard. My flower and I were in union.
Sometimes it took a few days, sometimes a couple of weeks. When the flower finally died, I would take it outside, say goodbye to it, and thank it for giving its life for me and for delivering my prayer. Then I would bury it so it would have a chance at a new life, and I always hoped it would come back as an even nicer flower.
In this simple, graphic way my mother taught me how uplifting prayer can be. And, in the process, she taught me about life, too–how basic both dying and rising are to living and how important it is that we become Sacrifice Flowers for each other.
–By Jose Hobday