We bring our stories

The Destroyed City (Rotterdam) – rebuilt and flourishing   (Photo: Irene Bom)
Sculpture by Ossip Zadkine, inspired by the devastation of the 1940 bombing of Rotterdam

 
 
 

The first post in our December series, “Story”, features a prayer by Cheryl Lawrie that invites God to speak into the particulars of our lives with his story of transforming grace.

 


Prayer

God, we bring our stories
and we wait to be held by yours.

We bring our faithfulness:
shape it with grace

We bring our success:
shape it with generosity

We bring our weaknesses:
shape them with compassion

We bring our possibilities:
shape them with hope.

We confess, God, that the way is hard
and we are tired.
Speak into our tiredness with your story of grace

We confess that the way is unclear
and we do not know the path
Speak into our wandering with your story of vision

We confess that we are tired of waiting
and we just want to make it happen
Speak into our impatience with your story of wisdom

Let your story be our story
and we pray this in Jesus’ name
Amen.
 

— written by Cheryl Lawrie, and posted on her [hold this space] blog.
 


 
Digging deeper
More details about Zadkine’s statue, The Destroyed City
 

mud mud mud


Baked mud: tiled floor in “Auditoire de Calvin”, Geneva  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 

Faith and Love in the First World War by Anne Richards and the Church of England’s Mission Theology Advisory Group is a compilation of reflections and prayers, “looking at little things which affected the lives of all who were involved [in the First World War], friend and enemy alike.”
 
Themes included: mud, rats, lice, poppies, cigarettes, daughters, ghosts, guns, wire, gas, shrapnel
 
 
Excerpts and a prayer from the entry on MUD:

 

When we repeat the lines from Laurence Binyon’s famous poem … ‘at the going down of the sun and in the morning/we will remember them’ … we should remember the pain, cold, wet and mud and what those conditions do to the human spirit. Mud forms part of the spiritual landscape of the First World War, representing destruction, dirt, pain and soul-sapping work. When carefully tilled fields and entire landscapes turn to featureless mud it is like the undoing of creation and a foretelling of death.

It was possible to drown in the mud of no-man’s land. If wounded soldiers fell into the mud, they might well asphyxiate before they could be reached. Mud was therefore also the enemy, lying in wait to claim you. Yet mud was also what kept you safe in the trenches …

So if we ‘will remember them’ we should remember what it is like to live on the edge of life and death in the mud, the soil of God’s good creation, sheltering you, but also ready at a moment’s notice to become your tomb, to turn you, wet and dirty, back into the mud itself.
 


Prayer

God of the earth, God of dirt and mud,
at the going down of the sun and in the morning,
we will remember all those who endured
the cold, clinging wet and fluid soils.

We will remember the tilled fields once white for harvest,
the stands of trees, smashed to pieces,
the landscapes of human toil and habitation,
reduced to ruin, the spoil heaps of waste.

We will remember the mud-sounds of war,
the buzzing of bees that are bullets, zinging into soil,
the wet explosions, fountain splatters of earth,
the strange sucking and gurgle of submerged deaths.

God of the earth, God of the lost and buried,
help us to value your good soil, to tend it, plant it,
restore what is broken and ruined to its beauty,
and when we wash the dirt from our hands, remember them.

 
Source: www.churchofengland.org
 


 
From the blog
In the school of prayer with St Francis of Assisi
Desert wisdom
The wells of salvation
 

Too beautiful for war

 

 

Two prayers by Simon Bailey – written from a teenage perspective – expressing distress at the ongoing threat of nuclear war and violence and recognising the comfort that comes when we bring our fears to God who is “warm enough to take all [our] shivers away”.

 

#1

They say we can destroy the world
twenty times over with nuclear bombs –
it’s probably more by now.
I see those pictures of the mushroom cloud
and I shiver –
the world is too beautiful for that,
people are too beautiful.
Father, it’s so wrong – and so frightening.

Jesus told us to love our enemies –
I don’t think you can love your enemies with a bomb.
It’s such a mess but somehow, somewhere
we have to turn round and really say:
‘We want to live in peace together.’

So send your Spirit to remind our leaders
how beautiful things are,
how beautiful their ‘enemies’ are,
to remind them to keep telling themselves:
‘We want to live in peace together.’

 
by Simon Bailey
from The Book of a Thousand Prayers by Angela Ashwin, #1001
 


#2

There were wars and riots on the news tonight,
Father, and now I’m very frightened –
bombs and killings and rows don’t seem too bad
in the daylight, but it’s dark now …
I don’t let other people know I’m frightened
of the dark but I am.
I’m scared of lots of things –
evil spirits and heights, being beaten up,
of pain and dying,
and even looking silly in front of my friends.
Now I’m scared of going to sleep in case I dream.

Be near me,
Be a warm presence round me
and a light inside me.

You know what it’s like to be very scared,
so you can help me now.
I’m nearly shivering with fright,
so help me to know you are in charge,
you know what darkness is,
you are brighter than the darkness
and warm enough to take all my shivers away.

 
by Simon Bailey from Still with God, p. 36
referenced in How to Pray: Alone, with Others, at Any Time, in Any Place by Steven Cottrell
 


Church of Scotland at prayer

Together we pray
Each week, from late September until late November, new prayers written by people from across the Church of Scotland and our partners will be shared on the Church of Scotland website.

This week’s prayer for radical change, written by Doug Gay
 


From the blog
Consolation joy
Wild hope #1
Theme: Do not lose heart [prayer sheet]
 

imagine … no war …

 

(Photo: Irene Bom)
 

A prayer

We dare to imagine a world
      where hunger has no chance to show its face.

We dare to dream of a world
      where war and terror are afraid to leave their mark.

We long to believe in a world of hope unchained
      and lives unfettered.

We dare to share in the creation of a world
      where your people break free.

Dare we open our minds to difference?
Dare we open our lives to change?

Your kingdom come, O God.
Your will be done.
Amen.

 
from the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, U.K.
Posted on re:worship
 


 
From the blog
Guest post: War and peace
Worthy of trust
Theme: Spurred on by prayer [prayer sheet]

Turn, pilgrim


Shop front, Edinburgh  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 

A prayer inspired by an eighth-century Abbess of Clonbroney in Ireland, Samthann, renowned for her prayer and wisdom.

 


A prayer

 
My journey will not bring me
any nearer to You,
unless at each turning
is a turning of the heart.

And the true heart turns to You.

The Kingdom of Heaven
is not far from anyone:
its secrets open
to an open heart.

When I turn,
I turn to You.

Wherever I go,
You are near.

 
from  Celtic Daily Prayer, Book Two, p. 1132
 


 
From the blog
Sabbath rest
Theme: Sharing in Jesus’ ministry
Dust and transformation
 

To be a pilgrim


In a village just outside Geneva  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 

I was in Geneva recently to conduct a workshop on the theme, To be a pilgrim.

We reflected on our life journey thus far and what it means to be a follower of the Way (the name given to the early Christians). We also shared the pilgrim songs that lift our spirits, got creative in pilgrim expressions, like writing haikus and short short stories, and made time for pilgrim prayers.

 
Here is a prayer from our opening devotions:

Come, Holy Spirit, Come!

When we feel alone, when we feel rejected
Come, Holy Spirit, Come!
When we feel drained and dried up, and we can’t give any more,
Come, Holy Spirit, Come!
When we are unsure of how to move or where to go or what to do,
Come, Holy Spirit, Come!
Come, Holy Spirit, revive us, move in us,
and encourage us on the journey of faith.
Come, Holy Spirit, Come! Amen!

~ written by Rev. Mindi, and posted on Rev-o-lution.
 


 
From the blog
People of the way
3 Prayers for refugees
Light on my path
 


 

If you’d like to know more about the To be a pilgrim workshop, do get in touch.

 

In the school of prayer with Pádraig Ó Tuama


(Photo: Irene Bom)
 
 

From 2014 to 2019, Irish poet, Pádraig Ó Tuama, led the Corrymeela Community, Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation organisation.

Drawing on the spiritual practices of the community, in 2017 he published Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community. Here are some excerpts on prayer from the Foreword, and a prayer celebrating the gentle gifts of morning.


Prayer is …

Prayer is a small fire lit to keep cold hands warm. Prayer is a practice that flourishes both with faith and doubt. Prayer is asking, and prayer is sitting. Prayer is the breath. Prayer is not an answer, always, because not all questions can be answered. (p. xi)

No prayer is perfect. There is no system of prayer that is the best. … Henri Nouwen said that the only way to pray is to pray; the only way to try is to try. So the only way to pray well is to pray regularly enough that it becomes a practice of encounter. (p. xii)

We turn to prayer in days of joy, and days where our world shows – again – that it is wrapped in the circle of conflict. We turn to form, we turn to old words because sometimes it is old words that hold the deepest comfort and the deepest challenge. … in a time of trauma, God is given a name by the traumatized. In a time of joy, God is named by the joy of our hearts. In a time of confession, God is named as light. In a time of rest, God is the soft dark that enfolds us. (p. xix)

Prayer, like poetry – like breath, like our own names – has a fundamental rhythm in our bodies. It changes, it adapts, … it sings, it swears, it is syncopated by the rhythm under the rhythm, the love underneath the love, the rhyme underneath the rhyme, the name underneath the name, the welcome underneath the welcome, the prayer beneath the prayer. (p. xx)

The world is big, and wide, and wild and wonderful and wicked, and our lives are murky, magnificent, malleable and full of meaning. Oremus*. Let us pray. (p. xx)

 
*Oremus: Latin for ‘Let us pray’
 

from Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community
by Pádraig Ó Tuama, p. ix-xx
 


A liturgy of the morning

On the first morning God said: ‘Let there be birds.’ And God separated voice from voice; and in some voices, God put a song, and the song sang to the land, and to the light, and to the light on the land, and when the people heard it, the morning had begun. The first morning.
And God said that it was Good.

On the second morning God said, ‘There will be dreams from the night that will need the light of the morning.’ And so God put wisdom in the early hours. The second morning .
And God said that it was Good.

And on the third morning, God said: ‘Let there be a certain kind of light that can only be seen in the morning.’ And God created gold, and dew, and horizons, and hills in the distance, and faces that look different in the light of the morning, and things that look different in the light of the morning. The third morning.
And God said that it was Good.

And on the fourth morning, God said, ‘Sometimes the day will be long. Let there be warmth in the morning, let people sleep for some mornings, and let the rest of the morning be good.’ The fourth morning.
And God said that it was Good.

And on the fifth morning, God said: ‘There will be people who will rise early every morning, whose day will begin in the night, by the light of moon and stars; they will see the sun rise, these early risers.’ And God put a softness at the heart of the dawn. The fifth morning.
And God said that it was Good.

And on the sixth morning, God listened. And there were people working, and people struggling to get out of bed, and there were people making love and people making sandwiches. There were people dreading the day, and people glad that the night was over. And God hoped that they’d survive. And God shone light, and made clouds, and rain, and rainbows, and toast, and coffee, places to love the light and places to hide from the light. Small corners to accompany the lonely, the joyous, the needy and the needed. The sixth morning.
And God said that it was Good.

And on the last morning, God rested. And the rest was good. The rest was very good.
And God said that it was very Good.

 
from Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community
by Pádraig Ó Tuama, p. 65-6
 


Digging deeper …

 


 
From the blog
Prayer sheet: Called into community
In the school of prayer with the Celtic Saints
To Emmaus and back
 

3 Prayers for my soul


Bumble bee feasting on catnip, Wydale Hall, Yorkshire  (Photo: Irene Bom)
 

Addressing “my soul” is common practice in the psalms. Here are some examples:

Psalm 42:5
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
      Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
      for I will yet praise him,
      my Saviour and my God.

Psalm 57:8
Awake, my soul!
      Awake, harp and lyre!
      I will awaken the dawn.

Psalm 103:1
Praise the Lord, my soul;
      all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Psalm 116:7
Return to your rest, my soul,
      for the Lord has been good to you.
 


To supplement your soul-speak, here are three prayers to engage and nourish your soul.


Pierce My Soul with Your Love

 
Lord Jesus Christ,
pierce my soul with your love
so that I may always long for you alone,
who are the bread of angels
and the fulfillment of the soul’s deepest desires.

May my heart always hunger and feed on you,
so that my soul may be filled with sweetness in your presence.

May my soul thirst for you,
who are the source of life, wisdom, knowledge, light
and all the riches of God our Father.

May I always seek and find you,
think about you, speak to you
and do everything for the honour and glory of your name.

Be always my hope, my peace, my refuge and help
in whom my heart is rooted
so that I may never separate from you.

 
written by Bonaventure, 13th century, posted on re:worship
 


Expecting Miracles

 
Dear Lord,
Help me to expect miracles.
Help me to get past the borders of my eyes,
the roadblocks of my mind,
the narrow door of my heart.
May my soul embrace
the mystery of Your magnificent love!
May my heart rejoice
over the unexpected and undefined!
May my mind and body sigh
with the sheer awe of it all. Amen.

 
by Leonard Sweet, posted on Preach the Story.
 


Devoted to You

“Preserve my life, for I am devoted to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.”  (Psalm 86:2)

 
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul:
Guard my life, O Lord, for I am devoted to you;
Guard my heart, O Father, for I love you with all my choices;
Guard my mind, O Jesus, for I fix my thoughts on following you;
Guard my body, O Spirit, for I give it to be your temple;
Guard my relationships, O Trinity,
      for I centre my conversations on you.
Hear my prayer, O Lord.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul:
I offer my eyes to you, O Lord, to behold your beauty;
I offer my lips to you, O Father, to speak your praises;
I offer my ears to you, O Jesus, to listen to your words;
I offer my steps to you, O Spirit, to follow your movements;
I offer my life to you, O Trinity, to honour you alone.
Hear my prayer, O Lord.

 
by Bill & Kristi Gaultiere, posted on Soul Shepherding
 


 
From the blog
Check the index for more prayers in the “3 Prayers” series, and much more besides.