Please start here. Look up Ann Weems’ poem “I No Longer Pray for Peace.” It was written for Ash Wednesday of 2003. And now, apparently.
To lead prayer in worship, we need to remember the experience of being led. Of being prayed through. Of being offered words when we do not have any that seem to fit. Let her words be this gift of the Spirit to you.
These are complicated, pain-full times. Ready-made for Lent’s nudge to return to the only One whose rescuing love is even bigger than the complications and pain. So here are three, simple, Lenten reminders for deepening our prayer in worship. Where do you feel a nudge?
1. For some congregations, communal prayer can become let-me-name-my-personal-problem time.
If so, guide each petition to also include all those in the world similarly suffering. Our faith is never a game of solitaire. It joins us to others. Prayer is a practice of deep belonging. To God. And to each other.
Lord have mercy on Nadine as she waits on test results from her doctor. Wrap her in your reassuring love. Deepen our compassion for all those weary and waiting. May we see each with your eyes.
2. For some congregations, communal prayer can become mere messaging. An uninterrupted announcement of how our group sees things. More certainty than questions. More pronouncing our agenda than inviting God’s presence.
If so, build in silence and seeking. As Richard Rohr reminds us, faith and doubt are not opposites. They belong together. They allow for a conversation with the divine. And conversation is what allows for a relationship.
Pastor: Holy One, you know us better than we know ourselves. You know our comings and goings. And our agendas. And how we confuse ours with yours.
Response: We listen for Your voice. (Silence.)
Continue this response-and-silence after each part of the prayer.
3. For some congregations, there is a forced-pleasantness code. It quietly insists that worshipers show up with only smiles and sunshine. It invites prayer for “concerns.” But not agonies or deep laments. It tries to rescue God (and us) from dealing with profound pain by not naming it.
If so, the Psalms remind us that it’s a failed, unnecessary strategy. God seeks our honesty, not our protection. So we leave worship with a relationship, not a game face.
Holy One, who loves justice and mercy, we don’t have words for the events of this week. The violence, the pain, the displacement, the fear . . . We bring them to you. Because we can’t fix them or ourselves. We need you.
Then name particular laments. Include silence after each to go deep and avoid rescue. End with a statement of our hope—so the gospel speaks to pain rather than avoids it.
We stake our lives on you. And remember that nothing can separate us from your love. (Reading Romans 8:35-39).
May you seek a holy Lent. Nudged. Loved. Ready for a deeper relationship.
Thank you for your ministry,