The Praying Mantis Who Couldn't

By Victoria Hoffarth

February 2021

Once upon a time, there was a praying mantis who did not know how to pray. No one taught him how to kneel, how to nod his head and sway his legs in rhythm with his prayers.

“I am a praying mantis,” he said. “What kind of a praying mantis am I that I cannot pray?”

So every day, he tried to teach himself how to pray. He moved his head around and around, and up and sideways and down, but he couldn’t nod. He tried to kneel by putting his hindlegs this way and that, but he couldn’t kneel. He tied his forelegs around his hindlegs. He still wasn’t kneeling. Each twist and turn was painful but he persisted. As he craned his neck, it grew thinner and thinner until it had difficulty carrying his head. As he stretched his legs, they got longer and longer until they looped around his body like knotted strings.

God saw him but did not recognize him. God thought the praying mantis was a fish caught in a net, its soulful eyes lifted to the heavens for help.

Taking pity on him, God’s voice thundered from the skies.

The mantis answered, “It’s only I, Lord. I am trying to pray, but no matter what I do, I cannot. And I have no one to teach me.”

Then God saw the heroic efforts the mantis had made, and his daily struggles so he could be what he was meant to be. “Oh good and faithful mantis,” said the Lord, “You will have your just reward. From now on, you will not only be able to kneel and nod your head in prayer, you will also become the most respected of your own kind. You will be the gentle king of the insect world.”

And so it happened to the praying mantis who couldn’t.

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