Prayers, Meditations and Reflections
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From Tom Wintle:
If it is true, as someone said of Paul Tillich, that you can best understand his theology by reading his sermons, then it is more true that you can understand a person's faith by hearing his or her prayers. Prayer, true prayer, is not instructional, heuristic or apologetic. It is not, thank God, simply an extension of a parson's sermon (as in “the finest prayer ever addressed to a Boston congregation”). Prayer is rather the moment when we stand disarmed before God. Shorn of our intellectual armament, unequipped for self-justifying defensiveness, unprepared for theological argument, we yield. And in yielding, we open ourselves to God.
Starting to pray is not easy for many of us. For me, it began very late one night in a darkened Episcopal church when I was in college. Alone, troubled, frightened, I found that church unlocked and went in and knelt in a pew. Uncertain of why or how, I prayed. Few words came to my lips or even formed in my mind. But I shivered, I cried, I knelt in spirit, as well as in flesh, I surrendered. To my surprise, I was warmed, comforted, and I wanted to pray more. I wanted to put my jumbled thoughts together in a prayer of thanksgiving. But I didn't know how.
Continuing to pray is not easy for many of us. Sometimes our thoughts are simply too distracted or scattered and we need to focus our attention. Sometimes the desire to spend some time in prayer is met internally only by emptiness, by spiritual lethargy, and we need some direction. Sometimes we do not want to pray our own personal prayers, but wish to join in the “common prayer” of our religious tradition. Such prayer, says Gabe Huck, “is not centered in feelings. Nor does it come and go with life's good and bad days. It is prayer that is constant, carrying one through all kinds of times; deep enough to express the true meaning of our lives in ways we come only gradually to grasp.”
Written prayers are not a substitute for spontaneous, personal, prayer. There are even dangers in using beautiful, eloquent prayers - as James Freeman Clarke warned 130 years ago. But they can help us pray well. That, simply, is the purpose of written prayers. However, one needs to find a collection of great prayers. Here are some:
Prayer at the beginning of a new church year
O God, make the door of this house wide enough to receive all who need human love and fellowship, narrow enough to shut out all envy, pride and strife. Make its threshold smooth enough to be no stumbling block to children, nor to straying feet, but rugged and strong enough to turn back the tempter's power. God, make the door of this house the gateway to Thine eternal kingdom.
Prayers for difficult times
O God, we pray to you for all those who are in pain and distress of body or of mind.
Bless those who are ill; be especially near to those who will never be well again; and ease the pain of those whose pain is beyond human skill to help.
Bless those who are sad, those on whose dearest circle the chill wind of death has blown, and comfort those whom no one else can comfort.
Bless those who have had some great disappointment,
Those who have found a friend untrue;
Those who have found a lover faithless;
Those who have failed in something for which they toiled;
Those to whom life has refused something on which they set their hearts.
Bless those who are worried,
Those who are worried about their health;
Those who have an insoluble problem which must be solved;
Those who have a difficult decision which must be taken;
Those who know that they must meet their testimg time;
Those who are tempted and who fear that they may fall.
O God, we remember all this world's unfortunate ones,
Refugees without a home and without a state;
Those who are persecuted for their faith;
Those who are suffering for their loyalty to some principle which is dearer to them than comfort and than life.
Grant that all in trouble may remember your promise that when they pass through the waters you will be with them, and grant that they may find it true.
–William Barclay, A Barclay Prayer Book, p. 216f
This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently. If I am to do nothing, help me to do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, and give me the spirit of your love.
Eternal God, who commits to us the swift and solemn trust of life; since we do not know what a day may bring forth, but only that the hour for serving thee is always present, may we awake to the instant claims of thy holy will, not waiting for tomorrow, but yielding today. Lay to rest, by the persuasion of your Spirit, the resistance of our passion, indolence, or fear. Consecrate with your presence the way our feet may go; and the humblest work will shine, and the roughest places be made plain. Lift us above unrighteous anger and mistrust into faith and hope and charity by a simple and steadfast reliance on your sure will; and so may we be modest in our time of wealth, patient under disappointment, ready for danger, serene in death. In all things, draw us to the mind of Christ, that your lost image may be traced again, and you may own us as at one with him and you.
Gracious God, you invite all who are burdened to come to you. Touch us with your healing love. Journey with us through our valleys of fear and pain. Be like a strong staff when we need to lean, and a green pasture when we need to rest. Restore our souls. Help us find a renewed sense of courage and hope through your ever present love. Comfort and sustain us all with days of our lives.
O Lord our God, when the storm is loud and the night is dark, and the soul is sad and the heart oppressed, then, as weary travelers, may we look to thee; and beholding the light of thy love, may it bear us on, until we learn to sing thy song in the night. AMEN
"A Prayer for the Dazed," written by Sharon McDonald
For those whose "check engine" light just flashed;
For those recently deposited, trembly-legged, from a roller-coaster;
For those who forgot their lines as they entered, stage right;
For those poised tensely like a deer in the headlights;
For those badly jet-lagged who fumble for their passport;
For those just awakening not sure of their name;
For those who sat near as a loved one died a "good" death;
Oh God, we pray, repeat yourself:
Vouchsafe again and again the law of gravity;
Reiterate that day follows night and crocuses follow icicles;
Push the tides endlessly like a rocking cradle
Until we can recognize the rhythm of our own breath;
Until we can blink and regain our balance;
Until our hearts beat steadily again.
Prayers for Lent
Lord, make me kind!
The world is full enough of needless tears
And hungry hearts are full enough of nameless fears.
To these no vision of Thy humaneness appears.
Lord, make me kind.
Lord, make me think!
For thoughtlessness has caused so much of needless woe,
That thoughtless words of mine may grow and grow
Until, like torrents made, no thing can stay its flow.
Lord, make me think!
Lord, make me love!
And place love's sign upon the face of me,
That loveless men may pause and turn and see
A little of that love that comes from Thee.
Lord, make me love!
Let everything I do this day and in this season of Lent come from you, be inspired by you.
I long to be closer to you.
Help me to remember that nothing is important in my life unless it glorifies you in some way.
It's so easy to get caught up in the day to day of my life and keep saying,
"Tomorrow, I will spend more time in prayer," but now my longing meets your love and I want to do it now.
Help me to rely on you for help. The prayer asks you that I reach perfection.
Please, Lord, remind me that "perfection" isn't the crazy, "successful" way I try to live my life,
but a perfection of my most authentic, real self.
My "perfection" might be holding my many flaws in my open hands, asking you to help me accept them.
Heal me, Lord, and help me to find you in the darkness of my life.
Let me reach out in this darkness and feel your hand and love there to guide me.
(Praying Lent: Renewing Our Lives on the Lenten Journey Andy Alexander, SJ and Maureen McCann Waldron Copyright © 2009 Published by Loyola Press)
Because temptation is woven into the fabric of our lives, and we know the weariness of forty days in the desert,
and the beckoning power of sweet fruit, and the vain promises of the world, we need you, God.
We need you, God.
Because we see the broken before the whole, and the half empty cup, and the unfinished task, and the thirst in freedom's quest,
we need you, God.
We need you, God.
Because we trust in what we can see, and we are blinded by our prejudices, and we do not know what we do not know,
we need you, God.
We need you, God.
Because our need for correctness exceeds our need for truth, and our excuses preempt the cry of the wounded,
and our celebration of blessing is mindless of those displaced, we need you, God.
We need you, God.
Because you came among us, and breathed into our sinewy souls, and healed our pain and let us wound you,
and loved us to the end, and triumphed over all our hatred, we need you, God.
We need you, God.
(Inspired by Iona Com'ty Worship Book) Katherine Hawker, Outside the Box, 2002
A Prayer for Thanksgiving
Let us give thanks for a bounty of people:
For children who are our second planting, and, though they grow like weeds and the wind too soon blows them away, may they forgive us our cultivation and fondly remember where their roots are.
Let us give thanks:
– For generous friends. . .with hearts. . .and smiles as bright as their blossoms;
– For feisty friends as tart as apples;
– For continuous friends, who, like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us that we've had them;
– For crotchety friends, as sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;
– For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and as elegant as a row of corn,
– and the others, as plain as potatoes and as good for you;
– For funny friends, who are as silly as Brussel sprouts and as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes, and serious friends as complex as cauliflowers and as intricate as onions;
– For friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as delightful as dill, as endless as zucchini, and who, like parsnips, can be counted on to see you throughout the winter;
– For old friends, nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time, and young friends coming on as fast as radishes;
– For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us, despite our blights, wilts, and witherings;
And, finally, for those friends now gone, like gardens past that have been harvested, and who fed us in their times that we might have life thereafter;
For all these we give thanks.
– Max Coots
A Prayer for Christmas Eve
Lord, we live in a world of shadows, a combination of darkness and light. We see the darkness in a world with brokenness and tears, oppression and poverty, division and war. We feel like a tiny, solitary candle swallowed by the darkness. But “the people who lived in darkness have seen a great light… on them – on us – the light has shined.” Thank You for the light of the world, Jesus Christ. Lord, in the darkness, help us to light candles, candles of faith, hope and love, drawing light from others, giving light to others, always kindled by the one eternal light, the Light of the World. And let any shadows we see remind us not of the darkness, but the light who is shining and will never go out… “For the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Amen.
– The Rev. Dr. John G. Hamilton, First Presbyterian Church, Rochelle, Illinois used with permission from “How Deep is Your Love, God?” A Journey In Prayer, May 2007
A Prayer for Christmas
May the spirit of giving, go on through the year, Bringing love, laughter, hope, and good cheer. Gifts wrapped with charity, joy, peace, and grace, Ribboned with happiness, a tender embrace. – Norma Woodbridge
A Prayer for Whitsunday (Pentecost)
Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, and the brightness of thy Spirit illumine our souls; kindle our cold hearts and light up our dark minds,
that we may live unto thy glory.
(from the Book of Prayer and Praise for Congregational Worship (Boston: American Unitarian Association, 1896), which was in the pews of First Parish Weston until about 1976)
WE THANK THEE
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends,
Father in Heaven, We thank Thee.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
GOD IS GREAT
God is great, and God is good,
And we thank Him for our food,
By His hand we all are fed;
Thank You, Lord, for our daily bread.
– Author Unknown
THANK YOU, GOD, FOR EVERYTHING
Thank you for the world so sweet,
Thank you for the food we eat.
Thank for the birds that sing,
Thank you, God, for everything. Amen
– Author unknown
THANKSGIVING GRACE (All join hands around the table)
This is a day for thanks.
A day in which we see or hear or feel the wonders of the other moments of the year.
This is a day for time.
A day in which we think of pasts that make our present rich and future bountiful.
This is a day for joy.
A day in which we share a gift of laughter warm and gentle as a smile.
Above all, this is a day for peace.
So let us touch each other And know that we are one.
For these and other blessings, we thank Thee, God.
– Daniel Roselle
Lord be with us this day of thanksgiving
Help us make the most of this life we are living.
As we are about to partake of this bountiful meal
Let us not forget the needy and the hunger they feel.
Help us to show compassion in all that we do
And for all our many blessings we say thank you.
– Helen Latham
Prayers & Poems for Everyday Meals and Special Occasions by June Cotner © 1994 HarperCollins Publisher, New York
Our Heavenly Father, we thank you
For the bountiful food on this Christmas table
And the loving hands that prepared it.
We are grateful for all your blessings,
Especially for the gift of your son, Jesus,
Born this day to bring us the gift of eternal life.
Betty R. Graham, Prayers & Poems for Everyday Meals and Special Occasions by June Cotner © 1994 HarperCollins Publisher, New York