Prayers for Life’s Unfolding

 

carl-larsson-ethnic-children

…created in your image… (Carl Larsson, 1853-1919)

In response to prayer requests today for financial and employment fears and a little girl’s loss of her beloved kitty-cat

ANXIETY AND LACK

Almighty God, each day and every hour do you reveal the beauty of your spirit in creation, and by wonders you perform we learn to know you. How can we then fail to love you with our hearts, our souls, and our minds? You have created in each of your children a masterpiece, a lively spirit, perpetually renewed, ageless and unwearied. To each one of us do you impart particular gifts, no two the same, for you have made us in your image, one by one, and we receive not by what we deserve, not as reward, but out of your immeasurable love—ours to receive, embrace, and celebrate with gratitude.

O God, now send your Holy Spirit to your children to enfold, protect, and cherish. You give not meagerly but out of such abundance that we cannot help but receive it thankfully and with a grateful heart. Where there is difficulty, give us vision to see past it, far beyond, to your eternal presence and your perfect grace. Now guide us hour by hour and day by day along the path of holiness to joy and satisfaction. Be our portion, meat and drink, in thought and word and deed. May we then celebrate your generosity, becoming likewise openhanded and compassionate.

grass-field-sunrise-wallpaper

…the earth’s abundance…

Where we perceive that there is lack, open our eyes to all the gifts surrounding us and keep fresh our certainty that you, God, are the answer to all questions, the solution to all problems and perplexities. As we grow closer to you… hour by hour and day by day… may we feel the palpable and present love you have for us above all else. May it be our first thought in the morning and our last before we close our eyes. May we turn to you in joy and sorrow, sure of your wisdom, mercy, grace, and forgiveness, and your perfect love. God, may your will be done. Amen.

GRIEVING

girl-cat

?Willem Jan Willemsen 1866-1914

Dear God, what an astonishing creation you have given us in which to alternate activity and rest, where every creature great and small was made no two alike by you for holy purpose. Thank you, God, for prayer, our sacred conversation. We lift up to you our families, friends, companions—those on earth and those who have passed on. When death takes loved ones from our midst, we pray for healing, even as we know that they still live in ways mysterious to us. May we emerge from grieving to remember them with fewer tears and greater joy… for in your wisdom and compassion you have given us the love of family and friends who mourn with us and comfort us until the pain begins to ease. May loss not take our innocence and trust but leave us with a reverence for life, compassion quickly stirred by others’ suffering, wisdom and energy to offer aid and comfort. May we know you by those mercies, sense your presence, hear your voice, and glimpse your glory. Help us realize that we are needed by the living, who require our love and cherishing. In thankfulness and praise we offer this our prayer. Amen.

WORK

Almighty God, your love is beyond measure. To follow you is to live a life transformed and jubilant. Thank you, dear God, for the great gift of work. May it bring us joy and satisfaction. In it may your name be glorified. Send your Holy Spirit, God, to wrap us in tranquility and peace during transitions in our work life. May indecision, stress, discouragement, and uncertainty not overwhelm us. Lift us high and ever higher, should we slide in the direction of depression and anxiety. Then shine your light to guide us in the way that you would have us go. May your will be done, O God, in new, more nurturing employment or in our growth and inspiration where we are presently assigned. Make work the perfect channel for our gifts, our talents, our inclinations, and our energy. May we be blessed and likewise be a blessing to friends and colleagues, customers and clients, supervisors and assistants.

illus-by-hannie-holt-indoor-play

Dutch illustrator Hannie Holt 1940s

We pray for the encouragement of families, who give us strength when work leaves us feeling drained. Fortify all our relationships, particularly those most fragile and most vulnerable to the effects of stress. May our communication be loving, honest, and generous. Be present in our interaction, and may our harmony bless others and inspire them. Even now, God, you are working for our benefit, our healing, and our victory. We pray for renewed perspectives and grateful hearts, made strong and tender in your care. Send miracles, dear God—your grace made manifest in ways our minds can’t penetrate. Now let us rest in you and trust. Amen.

PROSPERITY

woman-hat-art-deco-artist-helene-lam

…prosperity and purpose… (Helena Lam

Merciful God, you shower us with blessings too numerous to count, too great to measure, and we bring you praise and thanks for giving us this day, so full of promise and of possibility, and for the gift—astonishing, perpetual—of prayer. And so I pray for true and genuine prosperity and for your bounty to be recognized, embraced, and celebrated. Sustain our minds and bodies so that they are radiant, made whole and strong and glowing with well-being. May your Holy Spirit enfold and heal us at every moment in the unfolding of our lives, at home, in travel, in the workplace, school, and place of worship. Bless our families and make our homes both safe and welcoming, places of activity and rest, where your spirit reigns. Meet our  financial needs and more, so that we are able to be generous as well as adequately fed and sheltered. And may our prayer be carried on the wings of angels and laid at your feet in confidence and trust. Amen.

 

 

All That Touches Me Is Holy

 

vaneyck_hubert-jan-angels-singing-and-playing

Angels Singing and Playing, Hubert (c. 1385|90-1426) and Jan (1390-1441) VanEyck

Divine the wind that riffles in my ear.
Divine the breeze that lifts my hair
and brushes with a kiss the face
I raise to thee. Divine the sun
that dawns for my enlightenment
and sends me on the course thy wisdom
has designed for me. Divine the earth
supporting me. Divine the human family.
All things that give me shape and form
are of thine image, Love Divine, and nothing
touches me except Divinity.

Thereby do thine angels shelter me and thereby
keep me safe, these guardians of thy vigilance
and messengers of perfect grace; for them,
accept my prayer of thankfulness
and that of all thy children,
wrapped in sea and sky,
the garments of thy power,
the fabric of thy peace. Creator, for
thy bounty, which alone can quench our
thirst and satisfy our longing; for thy gifts
unearned—no recompense is sought, none
is required; and for the great wheel turning,
turning ever higher, that has brought us
to this day and hour, to this geography,
and to thy truth—we lift our hearts
to thee in praise and gratitude.

Amen.

A prayer of gratitude by Mary Campbell

madonna-with-angels-fra-angelico-1395-1455

The Madonna with Angels, Fra Angelico 1395-1455

Prayer for Chattanooga

chattanooga-bus-crash-ny-daily-news

New York Daily News

Almighty God, there is great pain and perplexity in Tennessee and throughout our nation, as six children have died, dozens of others are injured, and a bus driver is charged with homicide and other crimes. God, we pray for the hurt and the bereaved in the aftermath of the November 21 crash in Chattanooga. Merciful Creator, may your Holy Spirit dwell with the grieving, so that sadness does not turn to hate or hopelessness. Instill in them the assurance that the children who died are at this very moment with you in eternal life and glory. Infuse the injured children with your almighty power. Heal their wounds and bathe their spirits in hope and comfort. Guide the medical personnel—doctors, nurses, therapists, technicians—so that their hands are healing hands, their minds are clear, and their hearts are wise. Unite the community in holy purpose of support and compassion. For those friends and family members who are angry, confused, or despairing, shine your light into their darkness, God, and make your presence known. Open their hearts to one another so that emotional wounds are not aggravated but rather treated tenderly and given mercy and sustenance. Send all assistance needed without delay, dear God. Summon those of us who can contribute in any way; and enter the heart of the bus driver, God—may it be a humble and contrite heart. Comfort and encourage his friends and family members who are in pain. May truth and wisdom prevail. Out of this tragedy, God, may wonders upon wonders be manifest and your name be glorified, and may peace be victorious and love shine more brightly than all the stars in all the galaxies. Amen.

Prayer for Work

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.

O God, your ways are not our ways.
You see the snares and thunderstorms
that lie ahead. Therefore we say
with unreserve, Your will be done.
What task have you designed for each
by which to teach us of the kingdom,
give us satisfaction, even joy,
in sacred service? Show us God, yes,
turn our eyes in the direction, if you must
before we heed you, of the workplace
and the workers. And provide us
with the motivation, energy,
and focus for the work at hand.

children-bringing-in-the-harvest-cicely-mary-barker

Bringing In the Harvest, Cicely Mary Barker

Thus by honest application may we
earn our daily bread and take our
meal in fellowship—for many
reasons, not the least to share
what providence has given.
May we then find satisfaction
in the work that challenges
our minds, our skills, our talents,
needs our joy and our compassion,
and produces what is useful,
beautiful, and pleasing;
what transforms and heals and serves;
what strengthens our communities;
and, yes, what makes us happy.
In your image you created us;
we were not made for misery
but love, as you have first loved us.

Bless us now; help us today
to make the world a better place
and be of help and benefit
to those we meet along the way.

Amen.

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Prayers Following Disasters

Pray for those affected by disasters and those who respond in the aftermath.

These prayers were written by Karl Jones, a UCC Conference Disaster Coordinator.

1.

Something inside, so strong, pulls us, calls us:

Holy God,  may we know you presence in the midst of tragedy.

Something terrible, almost unthinkable, has happened,

Shattering our sense of safety and security.

Something inside, so strong, steadies us, calms us;

A quiet confidence that we will make it through.

Even in the midst of crisis there is a growing faith that we are not alone;

A sense of God’s present love and action.

Something inside, so strong, calls us to this place:

Something inside, so strong, causes us to sing and pray –

O God, come to my aid.

Hear my voice when I cry to you.  Amen.

2.

God, our hope and trust are in you.  We have nowhere else to turn.  Be for us an anchor in the chaos.  Hold out your hand so that we can find you     and know which way to turn next.

O God, how could this tragedy happen?  Grant us the faith to find you in the midst of it, even among our questions and disbelief.  We bring to you our prayers and concerns.

We pray through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

3.

Show forth, O God, in power and peace what you have done and are doing in  our world. Before some of us can sing a song of gladness again, O God, we have to get over something.  Great earthquakes have occurred, causing us to question your story.   We have a fear of your story, an estrangement from it.  Some of us are angry.  Some of us are hurt.  And no one seems to

notice.  They keep telling us everything is going to be okay, but still we’re hurt.

Help us tell the truth without making people even more afraid.  All some of us want is the day before we the quake.  And we know we can’t have any day back; we know that some

days are just gone. And then comes Epiphany, the time when God is revealed.  Reveal yourself, O God, to each one of us here. Bring us to your glory and help us move on to new days.  In the name of Jesus, who is never far away.  Amen.

Does Prayer ‘Work’?

If there’s a right way, tell me now…

st-peter-martyr-altarpiece-fra-angelico-15thc

Saint Peter Martyr Altarpiece, Fra Angelico, 15th century

Divine Creator, I have heard and read about the many ways to pray. One group claims that prayer is useless—doesn’t work at all—and others say that one form is the most effective. I don’t know exactly what it means for prayers to “work” or be “effective” anyway. If I pray for Mac the border collie to get well, and Mac dies peacefully instead and I’m at peace with his departure because I feel his spirit in the room with me, did my prayer “work”? How can I tell? Dear God—If there’s a right way and a wrong way to pray, please tell me now, because I just want to feel your arms around me. My legs won’t hold me up. I am too weak to stand and face this day and its demands. I need to lay my head down on your shoulder and be comforted. I’m too tired to even ask for strength. O God, be strong for me, just for a minute, while I catch my breath.

I have friends who pray according to a strategy; they seem to glide through life, with maybe the occasional lurch and stumble but with no plummeting into despair. I confess, dear God, that I am envious. I want to be like them, knowing where to find you and confident that you’ll show up. Instead I’m blind and deaf and flopping bonelessly in the direction of where I think your lap might be. I want to be like them, with stronger faith and no regrets. It doesn’t come easily to me—not yet. And it occurs to me that none of us is wrong, just standing on a different hilltop, looking from another latitude.

Some people say that you’re not “out there” but “in here”—my higher self resides in me—that my prayers are answered instantaneously, that I lack nothing materially or spiritually… that the answers to my questions, the solutions to my problems, and the generosity of heart I ask for are always and immediately at hand.

Out there or in here… what is the meaning of location with respect to you, who made it all, created countless worlds and stars and galaxies and universes? What is the relevance of “God is here” or “God is there” when there’s no place that you are not?

bahai-prayer.jpgHere’s what I’m always sure of, as certain as it’s possible to be: You are my divine Creator, my Father-Mother, and the always-fresh-and-uncontaminated wellspring of my life. You are the strength that lifts me when I’m weak or incapacitated. Yours are the arms that hold me when I grieve. You are the presence that fills me when I’m absent from myself, when I experience my being as irrelevant, when I feel completely set aside, alone, depleted, and superfluous. You are the wisdom that makes me wise, giving me the courage to keep moving when I can’t feel the ground or find in my surroundings a place of safety. Your vision guides my steps. Where I perceive a dead end going nowhere or a wall too high to climb, too wide to find the end of it, you see around the bend and far beyond, past this minute, this day, this mortal existence through the ageless, timeless, glorious tomorrows into eternity.

Prayer is sacred energy. To pray is to breathe light and clarity into forgotten valleys cast in shadow… forests overgrown and uninspired. To pray restores vitality, the way a rainstorm opens channels long obstructed by debris and inactivity.

There are sages who recite the laws of the universe and build systems and structures based on them, saying that even you, God, can’t restrain the momentum you set in motion at the instant of Creation. But who are we to calculate your infinite complexity? What are we looking at? Where are your edges? Who has built the fence outside of which you may not go? What are these laws that hinder even you, as if Creation had a vastness its Creator couldn’t measure? I respect these men and women and their mystical agility, but God, in the bitter cold I come to you for warmth, and in the dark it’s your light that guides me, not intellect, not human understanding, which wavers when untimely winter comes and hides the sun.

Am I wrong to come to you with petitions and pleas for intercession? Do I think a word from me will change your mind? Dear God, I don’t begin to know how you respond to prayer. I know better than to make demands or give you checklists. I pray to feel you with me. I pray against the illusion that we can be separated from your love and outside your protection. I pray so that my spirit will be renewed, my heart refreshed, my mind cleansed, and my needs, wishes, and desires surrendered. I pray to see things as you see them and remember that all is well.

I pray for clarity about the truth: The sick are healed; broken relationships are repaired; families are reinforced and mended; love is released; peace is restored; energy and purpose are awakened; and laughter is the music played by winds at ease, strummed across the prairie grasses, echoed from the cliffs and valleys, amplified and spread by the rivers and the seas.

I pray for miracles, even if what seems miraculous to me is just a borrowing from nature’s customary rhythm, a euphoric flight among the stars I thought were out of reach. I pray for courage in my work and purity in my relationships; for the healing power of love unfettered; for the clarity of purpose that unites my bliss with service and compassion. I pray to know the meaning of abundance not sought out of greed but sharing of the planet’s bounty. From my soul I pray for harmony, honesty, and innocence to sweep away everything unnecessary, toxic, and decayed. Underneath the layers of corrosion, behind the dust and through the haze, O God, the world and all that grows here are as clean and vibrant as when they were made morning. Your gifts have not been taken away, nor has the world’s reflected glory been erased. Your allness is intact, and clever imitations of another power, some imagined rogue Creator, can’t make the world an ugly, bleak, and loveless place. I don’t know everything, but I know this.

the-holy-innocents

The Holy Innocents

What I know of you, God, and your nature isn’t what I’ve figured out so I can pride myself on my discernment. Whatever knowledge I possess is what you’ve shown to all your messengers on earth. Whatever revelation I might claim is borne of grace, of victory, and of the cycles, seasons, galaxies, the rhythm of the universe, which returns all things to primal innocence, to soundness and perfection.

Father-Mother, by the grace of your unfailing love, may I become your instrument, to tend whatever I find sick and broken, helping it become well and vigorous and whole. Reveal to each of us our genius in the flow of work and rest and recreation. Precious God, at every opportunity, in every gathering, discussion, meeting, chance encounter, ignite our curiosity so that we’re impelled to ask the question “What can I do to serve you? How can I make your life better?”  Amen