August 8, 2016

WRITING PRAYERS - A FEW THOUGHTS ON THE WRITING PROCESS


 WRITING PRAYERS - A FEW THOUGHTS ON THE WRITING PROCESS 

John BirchIn its simplest definition prayer is a conversation between the one who is praying and the one to whom those prayers is directed. For the writer this must always be taken into account.
Prayer can take many forms, and encompass the whole range of poetic and literary styles. It can be a cry for help or a cry of joy. It can be a single word or a symphony of prose. 
If we are going to be creative in our prayers then I do not feel that there should be too many hard and fast rules about the format and content. We are all individuals with our own thoughts about style and content, and this ‘individuality ‘ can bring a freshness and vitality into a time spent talking and listening to God.
For those who are poets, I would caution against the use of fancy ‘poetic language’ if in its complexity it renders the prayer difficult to understand on first hearing. Dylan Thomas knew how to weave a magical carpet of words, but often they are not readily accessible to the ordinary reader.
For those who are strangers to poetry, don’t let this put you off. I don’t think Columba was renowned as a poet, but he knew how to praise his God.

Alone with none but thee, my God,
I journey on my way.
What need I fear, when thou art near O king of night and day?
More safe am I within thy hand
Than if a host did round me stand.
(Columba, c.521 - 97)

Free verse or rhyme, structured or not let the Spirit take you where He will. Allow your inspiration to paint pictures with words.

Deep peace of the running wave to you,
Deep peace of the flowing air to you,
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you,
Deep peace of the shining stars to you, 
Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you, for ever.
(Old Celtic prayer)

Most importantly, remember to whom the prayer is directed and the congregation or individuals who are being asked to join their thoughts with your words. Make sure that your language is accessible, your theology sound and let your personality mould the prayer that you write.
When you have written it, ask yourself the question 'If I had come across this prayer in a book, would I have used it?' If the answer is 'No!' then re-examine what you have written and see if you can refine the language, change a word or two, structure the lines better.

The Content of our Prayers
Within the context of our collective worship there are certain elements that it would seem right to include, in order that our prayers are not seen to be too narrow in their aspirations.
These can be represented by the well used acronym A.C.T.S.

(i) ADORATION: Our prayer of adoration is one that is centred entirely on God. It is our expression of praise for all that God is - His holiness, majesty, love and greatness.
It’s that mountaintop experience of being in the presence of the Creator of all that you see around you, or sitting through a truly wonderful performance of a sacred work which has transported your soul to another plain. Perhaps you see what I’m trying to explain?
Adoration comes from the heart, from our emotions; it’s an expression of our inmost feelings. 

Every creature, every plant
every rock and grain of sand 
proclaims the glory of its Creator
worships through colour, shape 
scent and form.
A multi-sensory song of praise.
Creator God, may we join 
with the whole of your creation 
in praising you, our Creator
through the fragrance 
and melody of our lives 

(ii) CONFESSION: An awareness of God’s presence within our worship naturally leads on to a feeling of our own unworthiness. In confession we acknowledge what we are and ask for forgiveness.
If these prayers are part of an act of public worship then it is appropriate to express the Christian conviction that we all share in the sin of humankind.
Any prayer of confession should properly express our belief that God offers the promise of forgiveness.

Loving Father 
all the fancy words 
in the world 
expressed in eloquent prose 
decorated with emotion 
spoken with conviction 
cannot compete with a heartfelt 
'sorry' 
when all other words fail. 
There are times 
when we are all too aware 
of our limitations 
conscious of sin 
and the distance it creates between us.
Sometimes 'sorry' 
is all the heart can bear to say aloud. 
It is only you 
who can read and understand 
the language of our hearts 
Only you who can translate our 'sorry' 
into the prayer we would have prayed
if we had the words within us.
Then you forgive
and having forgiven 
surround us in an embrace of love
drawing us close to your heart
as it was always meant to be. 
Thank you, Loving Father
that you listen to hearts 
as well as voices
Thank you.


(iii) THANKSGIVING: Often lost within the package of prayer offered within worship is thanksgiving. It gets confused with adoration or simply ignored as prayers focus on intercession.
It is only right and proper that we should thank God for all that he has done. For the beauty of this world which he created, for the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the promise of the Holy Spirit, his continuing creativity in the world today and for the Church - his body here on earth. 

After the storm 
a rainbow 
skilfully painted 
from the spectrum of colours 
contained in your glorious palette. 
Warm colours encircling us 
embracing this earth 
with a promise 
a reminder of your covenant 
with all of your creation.
Such love
eternal and everlasting.
Thank you, Creating God 
for the beauty of the rainbow 
and the beauty of your love 
For all that you have made 
and are going to make 

(iv) Two 'S' here
SUPPLICATION: is the asking part of our prayers, the requests for healing, justice, peace, comfort or whatever is the need of the moment. This can take many forms, but must also take into account that we might actually be part of the answer to our own prayer!
God of love
Hear the cry of those who yearn for love
Fractured families, broken homes
Neglected, unwanted, alone
God of love
ALL: hear our prayer

God of justice
Hear the cry of those who yearn for justice
Persecuted and oppressed
Exploited, ill-treated, broken
God of justice
ALL: hear our prayer

God of peace
Hear the cry of those who yearn for peace
In battle zones and broken states
Frightened, fearful, anxious
God of peace
ALL: hear our prayer

God of healing
Hear the cry of those who yearn for healing
Physical and spiritual
Hurting, weakened, depressed
God of healing
ALL: hear our prayer 

SILENCE: Silence is important, in that it allows us time to digest all that has been said through prayer. It gives us precious time within worship to let our hearts talk and our mouths stay silent. 
As David Adam says ‘It is not an empty time but a God-filled time when we open ourselves up to him.
How do you write silence into a prayer? Well, that’s up to the individual writer to decide. If you are writing a liturgy, or responsive prayer then it is fairly straightforward.

Shall we spend a moment or two in quiet reflection.
For love, freely given to all 
(pause)
For wholeness, the healing touch for broken lives
(pause)
For Salvation, for being made right again with God
(pause)

Bur even within a simple prayer there can be time to pause, reflect and respond before proceeding. No-one said that a prayer was a continual stream of words ending in ‘Amen’.

Thank you Lord God for the opportunity of worship
for the freedom to be amongst your family
meeting together in your house
and in the warmth of your embrace
(pause)

Thank you that in worship we can put aside
the uncertainties of this world and rest 
upon the certainties of the Kingdom
for your promises are not changeable 
as those of a politician might be
but immovable and eternal
(pause)

Thank you that we can bring to your feet
all the hurts and fears that trouble us
and leave them there
knowing that your strength and assurance 
are all that we require
(pause)

Thank you that as we draw near in worship 
we are transported 
from a world of concerns and fears
to a place where we can be at peace in your presence
find healing, wholeness and refreshment.
(pause)

Thank you Lord God for the opportunity of worship

If you feel inspired to write prayers then go ahead and write, it can be an uplifting exercise –simply the act of taking words and using them carefully to express your own thoughts and feelings. 
Don’t be afraid that you are producing something too personal. Remember David the Psalmist. Read some of his prayers and you’ll realise soon enough that he was happy to share his ups and downs, the pits and the mountaintops with anyone. And thousands of years later people are still inspired by his words, touched by his humility and faith