Tag Archives | prayer

A prayer for Sunday morning

first reformed church

Lord, it’s hard for me, as you know, to sleep on Sunday mornings. Almost as soon as I open my eyes, my mind goes to work – the adult ed class I will teach, the sermon I’ve prepared, the people I am hoping to see.

So, I sit at my desk – half-awake, in the early light – and I contemplate the day, this day, the day you have made. (I’m not quite ready to rejoice and be glad in it, though that will come.)

I like the sermon I’ve prepared. It’s got a couple of good laugh lines and also what my father-in-law used to call “meat-and-potatoes.”

It’s not unusual for me to feel good about the sermon at this point in the morning. What happens is that I probably won’t like it so much in a few hours, but then we’ve been all through that, haven’t we, Lord?

I promise to give it my best, and then I’ll try not to spend the rest of the day criticizing it and thinking of all the ways it could have been better.

As for the people, I’m grateful for them.

I’m amazed, frankly, that any of them will show up. It’s such a gloomy, rainy, chilly day that I wonder if I would take a shower, get dressed, and go to church, if I didn’t have to be there. I’d be tempted to tell the preacher later in the week how I can contemplate you just by looking out of my window with a cup of coffee in my hand, which is pretty much what I’m doing right now.

But that’s just the thing: not many of them do that – stay home, I mean. The church, I know from experience, will be mostly full. And there will be lots of children too, a couple hundred of them, thinking that it’s the most natural thing in the world to go to church on Sunday morning. Little do they know.

I am grateful for this day, Lord, for this gift you have given me to do what I love to do. May it be a good day – for you and for us.

In Jesus’ name, I pray.

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Prayer for the First Sunday in Lent

It's Lent - try the perch

Lord, at the beginning of Lent, I confess to you that I’ve never really liked this season. I’ve never really liked the fasting, the giving up of stuff I like, the somber feeling I get when I come to worship, or actually anything about it, except maybe for the color purple. I’ve got some great Lenten stoles.

Rather than just admitting that I like to eat and that I hate to give up stuff I like, I’ve pretended over the years to be a little put off by the season. In my preaching I’ve reminded people that Jesus wanted people to do their praying and so forth in private, not showing off about their piety and Lenten observance, but then you heard that, didn’t you?

I never know if you listen to my sermons or not. You do, don’t you?

And I’ve been very enthusiastic – as you know, Lord – about encouraging people to “take something on” instead of “giving something up.” I’m pretty sure you saw through that little ploy, but my people loved it and asked for more. What was I to do?

So, here I am, Lord, before heading off to church on the First Sunday in Lent, feeling just the tiniest bit unsettled. I haven’t given anything up, and I don’t think I can really take on anything more.

I’ve mentioned how busy I am, haven’t I? It’s really tough right about now, with so many meetings to go to. I don’t have time for some silly spiritual discipline. (Sorry, but a few of them do seem silly to me. Giving up chocolate? Really?) My plan is to do what I do every year. I’ll go through the motions, trusting that you’ll overlook my half-hearted attempts to observe this season.

I will do one other thing, though, Lord. I promise to think long and hard about this season and what it means and why we bother to observe it at all, because on Easter morning I so look forward to the big, happy crowds, and the joyful singing, and the brass instruments, and the smell of lilies. I just want to get through all of this unpleasantness as quickly as possible. You can understand that, can’t you?

Lord? Are you still there?

Your humble (and very busy) servant,


(Art credit: so far as I know, no one is complaining about the commercialization of the Lenten season, but here’s an ad that might be irritating, if it weren’t so funny. It’s Lent, so go out to eat? At Butch’s? And try the perch? I don’t know what to say.)

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A prayer for the fourth Sunday of Advent

Advent art

Lord, it’s the fourth Sunday of Advent, as I think you know, you who created the universe and everything in it, including me and all the stuff I like to think of as belonging to me.

Anyway, today is the fourth Sunday of Advent, as I mentioned, and I’m sitting here in the early morning darkness, with the house still, my cup of coffee nearby, made from freshly-ground beans, just the way I like it, and the dog is waiting patiently for our daily walk around the block. (I like this time of day – once again, as you know.)

And I’m thinking about what this day means – for me, for you, and for the world you made.  Such big thoughts for so early in the morning, I know.

So much of what I hear from friends at this point in the season is whether or not they’re in the mood, whether or not they’ve captured the spirit, or whatever they think they’re supposed to be feeling right about now. And I confess that I’ve done quite a bit to get myself into the mood.  I put up the tree, for example, and decorated it, while listening to lovely Christmas music.  That was nice.  And last week I went to the big Christmas concert in town, featuring candlelight and over 200 singers and musicians, you know the one.  I hope you liked it, too.

And I came away that night thinking, “Hey, I’m really in the mood now!  And look!  There’s even snow on the ground!”

But this morning, before anyone else is up, before I’m fully awake, I realize that this season doesn’t depend on me.  Whether I’m in the mood or not.  Whether I’ve got the spirit or not.  And I’m thinking that might actually be good news.

Because whatever I’m feeling – or not feeling – you looked with love on the world you made, and you became one of us.  And not just a better version of us.  You came to us as a baby, born to a mom and dad.  You lived our lives as we must live them, with laughter and friends, as well as betrayal and loss.  You did all that.  And much more besides.

So, to wrap this up, because I know others (not as industrious as I am) are waking up and offering their morning prayers too, I’m trying my best to remember that none of this depends on me.  None of it whatsoever. My joy this season is what you did for me.  And for the whole world.  And for that I’m more grateful than I can possibly say.  Amen.

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The Third Sunday of Advent

third sunday of advent

Here’s my devotional reading for this morning, the third Sunday of Advent: a few words from Presbyterian pastor and author Eugene Peterson in a collection of essays titled, God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas.

There can’t be very many of us for whom the sheer fact of existence hasn’t rocked us back on our heels. We take off our sandals before the burning bush. We catch our breath at the sight of a plummeting hawk. “Thank you, God.” We find ourselves in a lavish existence in which we feel a deep sense of kinship—we belong here; we say thanks with our lives to Life. And not just “Thanks” or “Thank It,” but “Thank You.” Most of the people who have lived on this planet Earth have identified this You with God or gods. This is not just a matter of learning our manners, the way children are taught to say thank you as a social grace. It is the cultivation of adequateness within ourselves to the nature of reality, developing the capacity to sustain an adequate response to the overwhelming gift and goodness of life.

Wonder is the only adequate launching pad for exploring this fullness, this wholeness, of human life. Once a year, each Christmas, for a few days at least, we and millions of our neighbors turn aside from our preoccupations with life reduced to biology or economics or psychology and join together in a community of wonder. The wonder keeps us open-eyed, expectant, alive to life that is always more than we can account for, that always exceeds our calculations, that is always beyond anything we can make.

Thank you for the reminder that what I long for at this season of the year – and any season, for that matter? – is “a community of wonder,” a company of the faithful, a church – caught up, not in programs and activities and lovely decorations, but in the story of a God who became one of us.

And then, this prayer for the third Sunday from the Book of Common Prayer, which for some reason has become my devotional guide during this season:

O LORD Jesus Christ, who at thy first coming didst send thy messenger to prepare thy way before thee; Grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready thy way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at thy second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit forever, one God, world without end. Amen.

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Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!


Sometimes the prayers of those who have lived the faith before us are the prayers we most need to pray. The following is from the Book of Common Prayer.

My favorite line? “We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.” Today I will try to be grateful for my “disappointments and failures” because of the way they have pushed me to acknowledge my utter dependence on the One who loves me.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.


Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have
done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole
creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life,
and for the mystery of love.

We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for
the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best
efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy
and delight us.

We thank you also for those disappointments and failures
that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the
truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast
obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying,
through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life
again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.

Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and
make him known; and through him, at all times and in all
places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.

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A Prayer for Sunday morning

church basement in Zurich

Lord, what most needs to be said this morning?  What is it that you want me to say?  I’ve got a few clever stories, as you know, and I’ve worked hard on them so that people will laugh in all the right places.  I’m pretty sure that what I have is an entertaining sermon.

But now I’m thinking that it isn’t enough, that it’s more about me than about you, just as it usually is.  I’m thinking that there might be a person (or two) in the congregation who came not to say goodbye to me, not even to laugh at my humor, but to listen for a word from you.

I’m sorry to say that it’s too late to change what I’ve got. It’s all typed and printed.  At this point I’m stuck with what I have.  So, I ask you to take my modest, self-serving offering and transform it.  Change it into something that actually sounds like the good news people are hoping to hear.  Charge it with your Spirit too, I pray, so that it’s you they see, so that it’s your words they hear, so that their lives are changed.

I pray this, with gratitude for the opportunity you’ve given me, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

(Photo credit: Thanks, Michael Blank.  Previous visitors to Switzerland may recognize that room as the lower level of the beautiful Fraumunster church in Zurich.)

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An invitation to the Lord’s Table on World Communion Sunday

world communion sunday 2


(Tomorrow, Sunday, October 6, is World Communion Sunday, and what follows is an invitation to the Lord’s Table from Presbyterian Church USA liturgical resources.)


Friends, this is the joyful feast of unity.

Christ has gathered his people around the earth

to commune at this table.


Across political lines and economic lines,

in places of powerfully protected affluence,

and among the poorest of the poor,

we share a meal,

remembering and celebrating the One who proved shalom possible.


And so, come:

you from the East and you from the West,

from the North and from the South.



Come with your doubts,

come with your hopes,

come with your inadequacies

and with your strengths.



for this is a table where all are invited

and all are welcome.


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A Prayer for Sunday Morning

photo (3)

Dear God, we came to this place today looking for you, for some hint or glimmer that you are here, that you care about us, that you have a word for us.  Some of us came hoping against hope, to be honest about it, because we’ve felt a distance from you.  We live so much of our lives not thinking about you, not aware of your presence.   But in this place, surrounded as we are by people like us, hungry and searching, we remember the sound of your voice.  We remember that you are close at hand, that you are as near to us as our own breath.  And for that reminder, we thank you.  For that comfort, we are grateful.  Help us, we pray, to remember throughout the week, not just in quiet moments here, but in every waking moment – to be conscious and mindful that you are there, that our lives are in your hands, that we are never far from your gracious care.

We pray today – not only for ourselves, not only for the sick in our families and in this congregation – but also for our world, especially for those places where there is war and violence.  We think of Nairobi and the people there who lost loved ones simply because they went to a shopping mall.  We think of Syria. We think of an entire region of the world in turmoil.

We pray for this country and our leadership, especially for our Congress.  We pray for wisdom and understanding.

We pray for this community and this church, for its leaders, for its people.

And we pray knowing that you hear all of our prayers – this one spoken aloud, but also all those spoken quietly in personal worship.  Now hear us as we say with one voice the words your Son taught us to pray…

(That’s an ink and watercolor drawing by my daughter, Sarah.)

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A Prayer for Wednesday Morning


Lord, be with us this day,
Within us to purify us;
Above us to draw us up;
Beneath us to sustain us;
Before us to lead us;
Behind us to restrain us;
Around us to protect us.

(Patrick c389-461)

Sometimes it’s the prayers of those who have gone before us that we most need to pray.


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A prayer for Sunday morning

bird taking flight

God of grace and forgiveness, God who surprises us each day with the gift of life, we turn to you this morning with grateful hearts – yes – but also with hearts that are full of sadness and grief and worry.

We pray for our world, the world you created and called good.  We’ve made a mess of things.  Everywhere we look a war is being fought – or there’s one that could start at any moment.  We’re sad and ashamed of what we’ve brought on ourselves.  And we need your help.

We pray for our country – its leadership and its people.  We’ve made a mess of things here too.  A wonderful gift of freedom and democracy, a land of plenty, and we’ve squandered it, until it’s very nearly gone.  Forgive us, we pray, and allow us another chance at it.

We pray for our church – at the start of another year.  You’ve blessed us with every conceivable resource, gifts of every kind.  Help us, guide us, we pray.  Show us how to be the people you’ve called us to be.

And of course we pray for ourselves – for the many issues and relationships and health concerns that we worry about today, that we can’t seem to get out of our minds.  We lift all of it to you, trusting not only that you hear our prayers, but also that you answer us, that you can take our broken relationships and restore them, that you can take our loneliness and anxiety and replace them with confidence and strength.  We trust that you can and do heal us.  And we pray for that healing – sooner rather than later.  You know we need it.

Hear all of our prayers today – this one spoken aloud, but also all those offered silently in personal worship.  And now hear us as we say with one voice the words your Son taught us to pray…

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