During the past few days, I realized that my normal prayer practices were not working very well. When I went into meditation or silence, my brain filled up with anxiety. I’ve realized that I need a different set of practices in this time of crisis. Here are some practices that seem to be working for me. (And I’d like to know — what practices are working for you these days? -Please let me know!)
Bring in Spring. Fresh flowers from the yard brought inside.
Share the light. I keep a candle burning when I’m awake.
Meditate with others. My Headspace meditation app invites me to meditate with others beginning every 1/2 hour.
Daily prayer. Upper room colleagues are leading morning prayer each day at 11:00 a.m. (Central Time). We are using Facebook Live. Like our Upper Room Facebook page and tune in to pray with us.
Pray for others. I’m spending a little bit of time each day praying for others on The Upper Room Prayer Wall.
How to Pray for Others on The Upper Room Prayer Wall.
I was already a world-class worrier
long before the current crises we face …
before the Coronavirus …
before the tornados hit my middle Tennessee neighbors.
I remember the nights in my childhood,
when I couldn’t sleep because I was afraid.
I remember my mom helping me cut out
a scripture passage from my Sunday School lesson.
We taped it to the dresser mirror in my bedroom.
“Don’t worry. Instead, pray. …”
Mom and I would read the scripture when she tucked me in.
I could read it in the night if I was afraid.
I repeated the passage until the words became a part of me,
until the words began to pray themselves in the silence of the darkness.
“Don’t worry. Instead, pray. …”
These days, I light candles.
The light of them shines
into the darkness of this world,
into the darkness of my worries.
The light says, “Don’t worry. Instead, pray. …”
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank God for the answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. God’s peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.”
-Philippians 4:6-7, The Living Bible
Last summer, just as I was preparing for my writing retreat at the family cabin, I received an invitation from Rev. Martha Spong to contribute to a book project. Spong is the Executive Director of RevGalBlogPals, founded in 2005 to minister to and with clergy women around the world.
The Words of Her Mouth is a collection of 150 original psalms written by ten women who are Christian pastors and leaders representing diverse races, orientations, and denominational affiliations. Each writer composed fifteen psalms in conversation with the Biblical texts.
The writing assignment was the most writing fun I think I’ve ever had. I was assigned one of my favorites — Psalm 63, the psalm we often sing in morning prayer service of the Academy for Spiritual Formation. (The other psalms with which I dialogued for this book are Psalms 9, 20, 28, 37, 48, 56, 72, 83, 92, 101, 114, 121, 135, and 144.)
These words from Psalm 63 caught my attention: “I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night.” Then I wrote about how, when I can’t sleep at night, I think of and focus on everything else except God! (What funny creatures we are!) My Psalm 63 closes with this intention, “Next time I cannot sleep, may I remember the saints through the ages who awoke in the night.”
I hope you’ll enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing for it. You’ll find it at Amazon and your favorite booksellers.
For several years I have followed the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle from the World Council of Churches. Each week throughout the year we are invited to pray for countries and and the people who live there. Over the course of the year, we pray for the nations and peoples of the entire world.
The ordering of the countries is the same every year. So I was amazed to find that the prayers for this week are for the countries and peoples of Iran, Iraq, and Syria. (God timing!) Here are the intercessions from the prayer cycle website:
We are thankful for:
the resilience of the people who remain in Syria, Iraq and Iran, despite constant threats and ongoing violence
the relief and assistance that has been provided to so many
those who have made a new home for refugees fleeing from these countries
those who have worked continually for peace, justice and reconciliation.
We pray for:
an end to the violence racking these battlefields of global powers
political leaders emerging in these countries who will pursue peace, the common good, and human rights of all groups
the international community to pursue policies that will result in acceptable, just peace for all involved
greater openness to welcoming those displaced or fleeing from these lands, desperately seeking safety and wellbeing.
And I add these prayers:
For the leaders of the world, especially our president and his advisors, that they may have hearts of wisdom and compassion. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayers.
For those who live in war-torn places, that they may know your presence with them, that they may be freed from fear, that they may be comforted in their distress. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayers.
For those who serve in the military and their families in these times of uncertainty, that they may know that your love surrounds them. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayers.
For all of those who mourn and who are afraid, that they may be comforted by your loving embrace. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayers.
For all people and all the earth, that your healing and peace might come upon us. God, in your mercy. Hear our prayers.
God, in your mercy, hear all of these prayers, those spoken out loud, those spoken in our hearts, and those prayers we don’t even know we are praying. You hear all these prayers; indeed, you hear the prayers of the whole creation. We pray in the name of the One who came to bring peace to the world. Amen.
Nine of us gathered this morning in The Upper Room Chapel to pray with and on behalf of the world. Two guests from Colorado joined us. We sang, prayed, and lit the first candle of Advent, the candle of peace.
Our candle lighting prayer by Steve Garnaas-Holmes:
Loving God, you are our peace;
prepare our hearts for your coming.
Forge the swords of bitterness into plows of blessing;
till the soil of our souls for your springing forth in us.
Remove our heart’s defensive armor,
clothe us in light alone,
and pierce our wide-open hearts with your love.
By your Spirit in us, may we be at peace:
awake, and ready to welcome your presence.