As I wrote before Christmas, I've been sucked into the vortex of Prayers of the People, that part of our weekly Sunday worship service where someone from the congregation prays aloud for a few minutes, followed by collective recitation of the Lord's Prayer. Most, but not all, of these people write their own prayers. Some of these prayers speak deeply to my soul, some do not.
A Sunday or two after Valerie had first asked me about reading prayers, the woman who coordinates prayer readers at our church came up to me, saying "Valerie told me you wanted to do prayers, so I put you on my list." I thought to myself: "um, wanted to do this? Felt more like a dare that I couldn't back down from!!" But aloud I said yes...mostly because Valerie seems to have gotten it into her head that I can write a meaningful prayer, and frankly resistance is futile against that woman! :)
Unfortunately this wasn't the best week for me, just seemed to have a lot on the go in the evenings, so by the time Friday rolled around, I still hadn't written anything. And then my thoughts were all scattered from my eye exam, I had a horrible headache, and just couldn't seem to get in a prayer writing headspace. A few thoughts rattled around in my head, but somehow wouldn't settle into place. This week's preparation for prayer choir piece had a beautiful melody, very few words:
Open our hearts...
Open our minds...
Open our lives to you, O loving God...
Open our hearts...
But these few words contain such a powerful invitation to enter into relationship with the divine within and around us...I love them and used them to frame my prayer. I never did find the right headspace to craft a new prayer, so I took bits and pieces from the prayer I wrote for my blog in December, added a few new thoughts and voila, a Prayer of the People was born. But I was still feeling really uncomfortable about sharing my thoughts with the congregation. I can stand up and read scripture or anything else without batting an eye, but sharing my own inner heart thoughts face to face with rows and rows of pews full of people...that was seriously unsettling for me.
So I emailed Valerie a copy Saturday morning and asked her to read it and let me know her thoughts...because I knew she would be honest if it seemed disjointed and because I just wanted my friend's feedback. Besides, I wanted to share it with her anyway, since she wouldn't be there to hear it in person. After her show of support ("Amazing!!") and much needed reminder to "Just take a deep breath before you begin and open yourself to that same spirit you call upon", I felt much more ready to share it aloud with others.
And I am really glad I did share it. I mentioned to Janice (the woman who is leading worship in Val's absence) that I had vetted it through Valerie first, because of being so edgy about sharing it in public..."oh you cheater!", she laughed. But she also thanked me very much for sharing it, said she thought it was amazing, and gave me a big hug. In fact, several people came up to me to say it resonated with them. My mom told me the church was dead silent while I was reading, and said it felt to her like really touched a lot of people. I feel humbled and honoured to think that might be so.
I post my prayer here too, in case my blog friends also wish to share it...
Open our hearts…
To be filled with the strength and grace of your presence, ever around and within us, as we lift in prayer all those experiencing loss…
The loss of loved ones, of jobs and livelihood, of good health.
We hold in our hearts our community of Windsor Junction and surrounding areas who grieve the loss of friend and neighbour, Julie Vials.
We hold in our prayers our sisters and brothers suffering from illness or disease…enduring invasive and exhausting medical treatment.
Gracious God, help us find the strength and grace to gently support all those in need of your loving touch.
Help us bring light and love to those who feel surrounded by the darkness of sorrow or depression…who feel empty…in hope that they too may feel uplifted and included on this journey, and feel their souls touched and renewed by the joy and hope and promise of life.
Open our minds…
May your Spirit fill us all with a sense of joy in the wonders of Creation, that we are inspired to celebrate and preserve our precious earth.
May we be filled with the Spirit of abundance and of compassion for our children’s future, that – in the wake of Copenhagen – we continue to seek common ground and reach agreement on ways to slow the consumption of our earth’s precious resources, to ensure our planet’s wealth and beauty remains for future generations.
Open us to see our children not as followers, but also as leaders. Let us not only inspire, but also be inspired...to see that your light and Spirit shines radiantly in their souls, that they are filled with passion, fire, enthusiasm that has not been dampened by adherence to tradition…to see that their minds and hearts are wide open to new solutions…and they truly can make a difference.
May we not just hear the voice of God calling, but actively listen, heed, be open to the movement of the Spirit within and follow wherever it leads. We ask that your spirit be upon us, leading us to new and transforming places.
Open our lives to you, O loving God…
Grant us the wisdom and grace to not judge the circumstances of those in need, to live always with compassion, free from prejudice.
We pray for all our sisters and brothers living in poverty, that they may one day know abundance. We pray for our brothers and sisters living and serving in war zones and other areas of conflict that they may one day know peace. Their hope of abundance and peace lies in the promise of sharing…our sharing.
May our eyes be open to see the need of others less fortunate, our ears be open to hear their voices, our hearts and minds be open to understanding that it is sharing that gives meaning and joy to our lives. Sharing with one another and living in harmony with Creation brings us closer to each other and to God.
Help us find in our hearts the compassion to reach out to those around us, and the courage to believe in ourselves, to believe that we can make a difference. We pray for the strength to start moving when we are paralysed by the fear that our actions are unworthy, too small, meaningless. We need to remember that what we do can touch the lives of others in ways we never imagined; in ways we may never know.
When we hear the familiar blessing:
May you see the face of Christ in everyone you meet
and may everyone you meet see the face of Christ in you.
May we hear all the words of that blessing…may we do more than seek the Christ in others…may we accept that we are ourselves worthy of containing the light of Christ and let our light shine with humility and grace.
Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with the power of your presence; help us to live our lives in ways that fill others around us with hope and joy…to be not afraid to show vulnerability or to step out and take chances. We are all walking on this earth together, let us actively, joyfully, inclusively, build relationship and community with one another. Let us honour and cherish the gift of each other’s company.