How to write a prayer

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A few weeks ago it was my turn, as a deacon on duty, to write prayers for the Sunday morning service.  I’d known I had to do this for weeks in advance, as all the deacons receive a schedule of the Sunday for which we are responsible for the prayers.  I had even set an alarm on my e-calendar a week in advance.

The last time I had written prayers, I read the scriptures Pastor Carol sent me at work and loved the language and message.  It had once again been late in the week, so I didn’t have time to ponder the scriptures.  Instead, I wrote my prayers at work, quickly between reviewing requests for home care nursing services. 

What I’d rather do is read the scriptures, sit quietly with the ideas, meditate, then write the prayers.  I’d like to have time to savor writing, since it is an act that helps me access emotions and insights within myself that I never realize through conversation. 

But once again, I had completely forgot to write prayers until I received Meredith’s email asking if I would read the prayers at both services, and please tell her by Thursday, so she can put it in the bulletin.

Once again, I composed prayers between reviewing requests for home care nursing services.  The resulting prayers were okay, but were so much less than my ability as a writer, were so inadequate in addressing the suffering present in the world, were so understated in the joy we experience.  I got them done in time, but kicked myself for waiting until the last minute to write prayers.  Why do I do this? 

I do it because I’m busy.  Doing what?  My job, my aerobics class, taking a friend without a car to shop for groceries, reading a severance agreement for another friend who just lost her job.  

Which of these activities should I have given up for prayers?  None.

That Sunday, I read my prayers with the imperfect language, the generic request for love to fill our hearts, the trite call to share our gifts generously. 

I could have, should have said it so much better.  I could have, should have anchored the ideas to the specifics of our nation’s struggles for healthcare and employment, but I didn’t.  I only used the language I had at hand.

When I finished the prayers and returned to my pew, Rodney Olson turned and mouthed, Thank you.  After the service, Marsha Foss told me, “Thank you for today’s prayers.” 

I realized that what I had written was enough.  There is no need for perfect language for a prayer.  It is enough to pray.

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