Writing Prayers Together: Mercy Embraced and Grace Discovered

. . . out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.

Matthew 12:34b

God spoke life and beauty into being in the beginning. Through psalm-singers and shepherds on hillsides, through prophesying women and dreaming men, through a teenager in Nazareth and an angel in Joseph’s ear, through prophets, priests, princes, and kings, God spoke wisdom and truth to and with God’s people.

And in Jesus? God’s Word became flesh. Earthy, earthly matter. Human flesh speaking human words. Human matter speaking and embodying words that matter.

Now? God speaks life and beauty into existence through the earthy matter that is you and me. God speaks God’s wisdom into being through the sometimes soaring, sometimes stumbling, sometimes everyday-ordinary words that we speak. God speaks hope and grace into concrete reality with words that vibrate through our bodies and flow out through us into the world.

Mercy Embraced and Grace Discovered

I am teaching a course to ministry students this semester called “Spiritualities for Religious Leaders.” In one of the modules, I asked students to write a prayer and share their words with our course learning community through a discussion board. They wrote words of lament and celebration, of yearning and gratitude, of mercy embraced and grace discovered. Their prayers provided a gift of sacred speech amid the swarm of words I encounter each day. My soul inhaled holy air as I lingered with their prayers.

Crafting a Prayer or Poem

I invite you who are reading this blog to connect with each other by crafting a brief prayer or sacred poem and sharing it in the comment section of this post. Here are some questions to guide you as you listen to your heart for words of wisdom on this day.

  • Take a walk outside. What do you smell and see? What do you hear?
  • City streets, restaurants, boardrooms, classrooms, kitchens–all of these places and more are full of words. I invite you to lean in and listen for holy sounds in unexpected places.
  • What words can we write and speak that will help others hear and imagine God’s Word in their own soundscapes?

For those who seek guidance for crafting your prayer or poem, I offer these suggestions:

  • I invite you to grab a pen and some paper and spend 3-4 minutes writing down all of the sights, sounds, smells, and textures you encountered as you walked outside or as you look out your window.
  • Now, ask yourself how what you are encountering connects to a particular concern you have, to God’s presence, or to both. Spend another few minutes writing down whatever comes to your mind. I encourage you to write without stopping. Don’t edit or revise or crique. Just write and let God’s wisdom within you emerge.
  • Read what you have written. Does a particular phrase or image stand out for you? Circle or underline that phrase or image. Consider letting that phrase or image guide your prayer.
  • Write the prayer. Experiment with using vivid nouns and active verbs.
    • Choose how you want to call out to God in this prayer. Perhaps the way you name God connects to the phrase or image you underlined. 
    • Offer a word of praise. 
    • Share what you feel yourself yearning for God to be or do.
    • Conclude the prayer with a word of promise or hope that emerges out of who you know God to be. 
  • Read what you have written. Is there a phrase or focal image that you want to use as a repeated refrain in your prayer? What is the tone and rhythm of the prayer? Are there revisions you can make to emphasize that tone or rhythm? Are different or additional words you can include to enliven the rhythm, flow, and content of your prayer?
  • Pray your prayer.
  • Share it with others. One way to do that is by putting it in the comments section of this post.

Listening to Cries and Whispers of Our Hearts

Crafting prayers can be a way of listening to the cries and whispers of our hearts and lives and being present to the deepest parts of ourselves. It can also be a way of letting sacred words arise from those places within us. The theology that lives there—quivers in wordless places in our souls—holds valuable wisdom about God, humanity, and life.

Thank you for joining me for these moments of praying together.

Note: Portions of this post are excerpted from The Writing Work of the People: Liturgical Writing as Spiritual, Theological, and Prophetic Work (Church Publishing Incorporated, 2021). Cover photo for this post by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash.



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