Category Archives: Prayers

A Blessing for the Brokenhearted

While we celebrated Valentine’s Day in our home with small gifts of candy and cards for each other and our children, my wife, Lisa, and I also remembered dear friends for whom Valentine’s Day is a painful experience because of the loss of their spouses. For people who are grieving because of the loss of their beloved, I offer the following prayer, which is from Jan Richardson.
Jan shares incredibly creative prayers, reflections, and artwork at her website. Her husband, Garrison Doles, died at the beginning of December from complications following what was expected to be routine surgery. She provided this blessing for the brokenhearted, which grows from her sense of deep loss and is inspired by the quote from Henry David Thoreau: “There is no remedy for love but to love more.”

Let us agree
for now
that we will not say
the breaking
makes us stronger
or that it is better
to have this pain
than to have done
without this love.

Let us promise
we will not
tell ourselves
time will heal
the wound
when every day
our waking
opens it anew.

Perhaps for now
it can be enough
to simply marvel
at the mystery
of how a heart
so broken
can go on beating,
as if it were made
for precisely this –

as if it knows
the only cure for love
is more of it

as if it sees
the heart’s sole remedy
for breaking
is to love still

as if it trusts
that its own stubborn
and persistent pulse
is the rhythm
of a blessing
we cannot
begin to fathom
but will save us

Let it be with me according to your word

Leonardo Da Vinci, Annunciazione

Leonardo Da Vinci, Annunciazione

Lord God, I want my prayer to be,
“Let it be with me according to your word,”
but so often my own wants and desires get in the way.
I have not been the Christ-bearer you have called me to be.
I have not loved my sisters and brothers
as you have instructed me to love.
I have not forgiven, I have not reconciled,
I have not worked for peace.
But still you have filled me with your grace,
and you continually demonstrate your love for me.
May I experience your forgiveness, Lord,
as I make my way through this time of preparation,
so that I may fully commit myself to the Prince of Peace,
Our Savior, Christ Jesus our Lord.
It is in his name that I pray.
(Adam Hamilton, The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem)

Thanking God for fun

A few days ago, I asked a question: “How I should pray before the start of a professional football game?” Here is what I offered:

Panthers JumbotronO God, this is fun! The sights, sounds, food, and camaraderie – all are fun to share. And we are grateful. Even as fans have fun, we acknowledge that many people work very hard to make this game possible. We remember the dedication of players, coaches, and staff. We are grateful for all the people who give their best efforts: referees, servers, security guards, cleaners, cooks, front-office personnel, and others. This night, may we share in good fun, healthy competition, and great sportsmanship. And tomorrow, may we be gracious in victory or resilient in defeat. We offer this prayer to you, O God, grateful for the privilege of sharing this fun. Amen.

In a world in which so many deeply important, challenging, and troubling things are happening, it seems rather silly to offer a prayer at a football game. Does God really care about a football game? I think not. But, I do believe that God cares about us, and if we care about something, then perhaps how we engage it matters to God.

It was fun, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to do it.

Now to those deeply important, challenging, and troubling things. May my actions on those matters be a prayer offered to God.

Mother’s Day Prayer

A Mother’s Day Prayermothers-day-flowers

Creator God, we come this day with a mixture of feelings.
Some of us arrive with smiles
remembering happy days with our mother
or by being remembered fondly by our children this day.

Some of us arrive with fake smiles
because inside we miss our mothers
or miss having a mother who loved and cared for us.

Some of us barely arrive at all,
tired from the demands of the week,
aware of the challenges ahead.

In these moments, we all arrive
and somehow present ourselves before one another and
most importantly before You,
the one who always seeks our good.

Like those who walked the Emmaus road and heard the words of the risen Christ,
we need a word from you, O God –
to be grateful for happy memories,
to realize that you grieve alongside us,
to remind us that your strength can carry us through rough days.

May we in our care for one another,
see you and know of your continuing,
creative presence in our lives.

Prisoners of Hope

Entry into Jerusalem, Fernwood Baptist Church, Spartanburg, SC

Entry into Jerusalem, Fernwood Baptist Church, Spartanburg, SC

During worship at our church on Sunday, we celebrated Palm Sunday, which marks Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem at the beginning of the final week of his life. We read from Zechariah 9:9-12, which often is read on Palm Sunday because of the prophet’s words about the coming ruler of God’s people. Zechariah says: “Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, leading his disciples to hail him as the long-sought King of God’s people.
Zechariah continues, “Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope, today I declare that I will restore to you double.”

During worship, my wife, Lisa, offered the following prayer:

O God, I like the idea of power, of controlling life – my life.
And the sounds of the prophet resonate with me –
Rejoice greatly! A King is coming triumphant and victorious.
Yes, I like that!
And yet in the same breath I hear that
the way of the king is humble, lowly, near to the earth.
Help us this day in our lives to be attracted to humility rather than control.
How will you help us live out our lives as followers of Christ if we look through the lens of humility?
O God, I feel the very real experience of opposition.
As we live our lives, there are times that it feels like we are being opposed by
We may feel surrounded by difficulty and disappointment,
disillusionment and even forms of death.
Your Word reminds us that in those moments, in those days, in those months and maybe even years of struggle,
that we are
Bound by hope –
prisoners of hope,
not prisoners of evil.
We can trust that you are always working with us to restore us.
We claim and we call upon that promise,
as those with hope. Amen.

A Prayer after Sandy Hook

As news began emerging of the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday, December 14, our hearts were filled with grief, anger, questions, and pain. All the while, our church was preparing to celebrate a special Sunday – the third Sunday of Advent when we would focus on joy and light the candle of joy in the Advent wreath.
On that Sunday, our children led our worship by presenting a Christmas Pageant. Watching them in biblical-era costumes, we remembered once more that Jesus, the longed-for Messiah, was born in the most unexpected of circumstances. Even as we talked of joy, we also remembered the pain and loss brought by Friday’s tragedy, and we added a Candle of Remembrance beside our Advent wreath.
I share now a prayer inspired by Timothy Merrill, a Presbyterian minister. Even as we move through Advent toward Christmas, we continue to pray for adults and children of Newtown, Connecticut.

A Prayer for Comfort

Gentle, Compassionate, Loving God, hear the cries of your joyless, sorrowful people. Our prayers go out to the families of Newtown and Sandy Hook Elementary School who have experienced incomprehensible loss.

We come to you with heavy hearts and in deep sorrow. There is little joy on this Advent Sunday of joy. This was a slaughter of innocents, twenty kindergarten children killed. The parents now are burdened with unfathomable grief. Their pain and numbness must be beyond words and thoughts.

Our hearts are heavy, and we cry out asking why. As we celebrate a child born in Bethlehem, the lives of children scarcely out of the cradle are snuffed out and gone forever except in our hearts.

With the prophet of old we cry out, “Oh that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people. Is there no balm in Gilead? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?”

We do not understand. We cannot light only a candle of joy. We also light a candle of remembrance, a candle of grief and sorrow. And we remember that You weep with us.

In the weeping and mourning, may we – and especially those most affected by this tragedy – feel your eternal presence and know your comforting Spirit.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

When There Is No Peace

During the season of Advent, when our worship and devotional readings focus on the coming of the Prince of Peace, we are reminded that many people find peace to be elusive, distant, or altogether missing. Many people’s lives have been rocked by unexpected and unforeseen changes that leave them feeling little peace during this Advent season. Others have faced less dramatic changes but are nonetheless weary, worried, or hurting just now.

Ian Price and Carolyn Kitto, co-authors of Creative Worship, have written a poem for those whose experience of Advent is more difficult than joyful.

Where are you, God?
Are you hiding?
Has it become too difficult to show your face around here?
There was a time when I would not have minded
your absence; when I was young
a different spirit beat within,
and I was strong and needed less.
Not so now – I really need you.
I need someone to help carry these tired bones
one more time around the block.
I need someone to fashion words
for all who ask me how I am,
expecting faith and piety to flow.
Yes, there’s a weariness upon me now,
and I would like a day’s rest –
rest from the emptiness; and rest from this hollow ache;
rest from uncertainty; and rest from my own questioning.
Oh, it’s okay, I know you’re there.
And all in all I know you care.
It’s just that it turned out differently, you know.

So I will wait for you to come,
and I will sing the song of faith,
till love is born and life is whole again,
and journey’s end is won.

If, during the celebration of Jesus’ coming, you are feeling little hope and less peace, please know that you are not alone. One aspect of being the body of Christ is supporting one another through times of difficulty. So, when you cannot lift up your heart and singing comes only with difficulty, please know that others can sing for you and with you.

Prayer offered at City Council

Spartanburg, South Carolina
September 27, 2010

Spartanburg-City-LogoO God, noise is all around. Some noises are good and soothing, as when we hear wind rustling autumn leaves or rain falling on our roof after many long, hot days. Some noises are pleasing, as when we hear children singing exuberant songs of joy and delight. Some noises are difficult to hear, as when we hear people crying out from the depths of their pain and isolation. Some noises are troubling, as when we hear people berating others, questioning their motives, and denying their right to participate fully in public life.
O God, we read again and again in the Psalmist’s songs that we are to make joyful noises. Grant these our leaders, the wisdom and compassion to find joy and meaning in their common work, and grant them courage to join their voices to the pleasing, joyful, and good sounds in our city.
When they feel pressure, grant them patience. When they feel pulled from many directions, grant them discernment. When they feel the urge to join their voices to the cacophonous bluster of our world, where people far too often demean and belittle those deemed to be their opponents rather than listening with caring and openness to hear others’ different points of view, give them reminders that their words, their actions, their motives, and the ways in which they conduct their important work matter greatly – to each other, to our city, and to its people.
Grant them reminders that they have the great privilege and serious responsibility to work for a city in which all people’s voices may be heard and, together, may they make joyful noises in this place – to the benefit of all the people they are elected to serve. Amen.