God … are you there?

God … are you there?
I’ve been taught and told
I ought to pray.
But the doubt wont go away;
yet neither will my longing to be heard.
My soul sighs
too deep for words.
Do you hear me?
God … are you there?

Are you where love is?
I don’t love well,
or often, anything, or anyone.
But when I do,
when I take the risk,
there’s a sudden awareness
of all I’ve missed;
and it’s good,
it’s singing good.
For a moment
life seems as it should.
But, I forget, so busy soon,
that it was, or what or whom.
Help me!
God … are you there?

Ted Loder, Guerrillas of Grace, 1981.

A prayer for winter

On this first day of winter and in the gloom of lockdown, some words to remind us of grace, even in the cold.

There is a winter in all of our lives, 
a chill and darkness that makes us yearn 
for days that have gone 
or put our hope in days yet to be. 

God, you created seasons for a purpose. 

Spring is full of expectation, 
buds breaking, 
frosts abating and an awakening 
of creation before the first days of summer. 

The summer sun gives warmth 
and comfort to our lives, 
reviving aching joints,
bringing colour, new life
and crops to fruiting. 

Autumn gives nature space 
to lean back, relax and enjoy the fruits of its labour; 
mellow colours in sky and landscape 
as the earth prepares to rest. 

Then winter, cold and bare as nature takes stock,
rests, unwinds, sleeps until the time is right. 
An endless cycle
and yet a model of grace. 

We need a winter in our lives, 
a time of rest, a time to stand still, 
a time to reacquaint ourselves 
with the faith in which we live.

It is only then that we can draw strength 
from the one in whom we are rooted,
take time to grow and rise through the darkness 
into the warm glow of your springtime, 
to blossom and flourish, 
bring colour and vitality into this world,
your garden.

Thank you, God of life, 
for the seasons that colour our lives.

[Author unknown]

A Prayer for today

We are a fickle lot. Whatever language we give it — whether religious or otherwise — most of us know that we are a bundle of contradictions. At one moment we shine; we aspire to virtue and change and beauty. At another we fall back into self-interest and ‘whatever’.

As a person of Christian faith, it’s this internal back-and-forth that I struggle to name. This little prayer said it for me this morning. There’s something here about naming what is while reaching for the courage and grace to be different.

Most loving God,
we admit to you and to each other
that we are beings in whom shame and glory
are strangely mixed.

We are creatures of wisdom and folly,
trust and anxiety, success and failure,
truth and deceit, love and apathy.
We need you, yet we evade you —
to believe, yet we doubt,
to praise, yet we dishonour,
to love, yet we resent.

God of the new creation and our God,
we long to be made whole
in thought, word, and deed.
We seek of you today the gifts of Jesus:
forgiveness, renewal,
self-acceptance, self-understanding,
and the courage to be
the sisters and brothers of Christ.

Bruce Prewer, Australian Prayers, Lutheran Publishing House, 1983, 84.

Spring’s returning

Dear God,

We celebrate spring’s returning
and the rejuvenation of the natural world.
Let us be moved by this vast and gentle insistence
that goodness shall return,
that warmth and life shall succeed,
and help us to understand our place within this miracle.

Let us see that as a bird now builds its nest,
bravely, with bits and pieces,
so we must build human faith.
It is our simple duty;
it is our highest art;
it is our natural and vital role
within the miracle of spring:
the creation of faith.

Amen.

Michael Leunig, The Common Prayer, Collins Dove, 1990.

A call to grace

Grace: it’s never far away.
Hold out your hands now.
Open your heart
and receive its gift.
For the undeserving and the spent,
for the wounded and the weary,
the discarded and the grieving —
grace is here.
Grace is ours.

Grace is not over there and out of reach.
There is no striving
that will claw it closer than it is.
Grace is not later or yesterday;
it’s not ‘if’ and ‘when’.
Grace is now.
Grace is ours.

Grace is not reward for the righteous.
It’s no gold star for the best and brightest.
Grace is gift freely given.
It’s lavish and deep,
today and always.
Grace is yours.
Grace is ours.

So come now.
Lay aside your reservations
and your tiredness.
Turn away from voices
that condemn and ostracise.
Let it go, all of it,
and know again this boundless gift of God.
Feel again the balm of God’s forgiving love.
Hear again God’s persistent call upon your life.

Come now,
for grace is here.
Grace is now.

A Prayer for Winter

Dear God,
Let us prepare for winter.
The sun has turned away from us
and the nest of summer hangs broken in a tree.
Life slips through our fingers and,
as darkness gathers,
our hands grow cold.
It is time to go inside.
It is time for reflection and resonance.
It is time for contemplation.
Let us go inside.
Amen.

Michael Leunig, A Common Prayer, Collins Dove, 1990.

A blessing for today

Benedicere*

May your home always be too
small to hold all your friends.

May your heart remain ever supple,
fearless in the face of threat,
jubilant in the grip of grace.

May your hands remain open,
caressing, never clenched,
save to pound the doors of all who
barter justice to the highest bidder.

May your heroes be earthy,
dusty-shoed and rumpled,
hallowed but unhaloed,
guiding you through seasons
of tremor and travail,
apprenticed to the godly art of giggling
amidst haggard news
and portentous circumstances.

May your hankering be
in rhythm with heaven’s,
whose covenant vows a dusty
intersection with our own:
when creation’s hope and history rhyme.

May hosannas lilt from your lungs:
God is not done;
God is not yet done.

All flesh, I am told, will behold;
will surely behold.

 

Kenneth L. Sehested, In the Land of the Living: Prayers Personal and Public, 2009, 82.

*Benedicere: (Latin) second-person singular present passive imperative of benedīcō “be thou spoken well of, be thou commended” (Late Latin, Ecclesiastical Latin ) “be thou blessed, be thou praised”

My thanks to Bruce Stewart for the image. Used without permission!

Run beloved, run

You are surrounded
By great and good companions

With witnesses who ran the race before you
Now cheering you on
Inspiring you with their courageous faith

With witnesses running beside you
Churning up the dust of this well-traveled-path
Encouraging you with the steady beat of their beautiful feet

Run beloved, run
Lay aside every weight
Every worry
Every excuse
Every inner critic shouting against inspiration

Lay aside the sin that clings so closely
Every self-serving motivation
Every self-medicating choice
Every weak thing you’ve trusted
more than God
Lay them aside
and run

Run beloved, run
Run with perseverance the race
Daring
Enduring
Alive

Looking not to the dust, but to Jesus
The Pioneer and Perfecter of your faith
Look not to the right or to the left
Look to Jesus
Focus
Follow

Jesus is The Way, opening the path
The Truth, clearing the clutter
The Light, blazing the trail

He runs
He endures
For the sake of the joy
Of setting the joy before you
and in you

Run
Run remembering
Joy is your strength
Remember and endure
For this race comes with a cross
A course of blood and tears
Mocking and piercing

Take it up
Disregard its shame (that ancient enemy)
Let it fall by the wayside
Tired scraps on the breath of new life

Take it up and run
Sit down in the next life
Not this one

Run beloved, run
Following and looking and remembering him who endured
So that you may not grow weary
Or lose heart
For your strongest step is yet to come

Words inspired by Hebrews 12.1-3
© 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degreni

Mercy now

“Every single one of us could use some mercy now”
Mary Gauthier

“Let your mercy come to me, that I may live”
Psalm 119.77

Mercy now is what I need:
mercy here, today.
Like a mirage, tomorrow’s lies on the horizon;
yesterday’s a faded picture, its corners bent and torn.
Mercy here is what I need —
some tenderness for today.

It’s true: I stride sometimes,
chin up with confidence.
Occasionally I sprint,
the one-hundred metre spiritual dash.
Mostly, though, I stumble.
I fail and falter.
Sometimes I fall.
My knees are scuffed where no one sees.
Mercy now is what I need.

I once imagined saintliness:
a state into which I might progress.
But not now.
There is no box of halos in the attic.
I’ve looked.
There are no streams of heavenly light
that flood my closet.
O, there are times of knowing —
those of beauty and laughter … and tears.
But there is more of nothing very much,
punctuated with moments of despair
and stretches of silence.
Yes, mercy now is what I need.

If mercy is only yet to come,
then what do we have today?
Striving and trying and hoping
for grace around the corner?
If mercy is only yesterday —
a sparkling jewell received once long ago —
then what is there to hold us now?

This is the truth, you see:
the heart’s undercoat is grey.
Though speckled with hints of colour,
the shadow it casts is long.
Mercy now is what I need:
tenderness enough for today.

A prayer for today

O Lord,
in the turbulence
and the loneliness
of my living from day to day
and night to night,
keep me in touch with my roots,
so I will remember where I came from
and with whom;
keep me in touch with my feelings,
so I will be more aware of who I really am
and what it costs;
keep me in touch with my mind
so I will know who I am not
and what that means;
and keep me in touch with my dreams,
so I will grow toward where I want to go
and with whom.

O Lord,
deliver me
from the arrogance of assuming
I know enough to judge others;
deliver me
from the timidity of presuming
I don’t know enough to help others;
deliver me
from the illusion of claiming I have changed enough
when I have only risked little,
that, so liberated,
I will make some of the days to come different.

O Lord,
I ask not to be delivered
from the tensions that wind me tight,
but I do ask for a sense of direction in which to move once wound,
a sense of humour about my disappointments,
a sense of respect for the elegant puzzlement of being human,
and a sense of gladness for your kingdom
which comes in spite of my fretful pulling and tugging.

O Lord,
nurture in me
the song of a lover,
the vision of a poet,
the questions of a child,
the boldness of a prophet,
the courage of a disciple.

O Lord,
it is said you created people
because you love stories.
Be with me as I live out my story.

51h4cyW5xxL._SX491_BO1,204,203,200_Ted Loder, Guerrillas of Grace, Augsburg Books, 1981.