Pandemic Prayers for Reign of Christ

Time still eludes me. I had forgotten that I had managed to work a week ahead in what I offer here in these pandemic prayers. It hasn’t always been that way and I’m sure I’ll fall behind again but I gave myself a small heart attack when I clicked ahead in the Revised Common Lectionary. I gasped. Surely, it is not Reign of Christ already. Advent is that soon? No! It’s still two weeks out but it seems impossibly soon.

I am going to play a bit more this week with format as I try to troubleshoot this annoying glitch that doesn’t seem to allow for easy copying and pasting. If you are in the habit of copying and pasting from these pandemic prayers, could you let me know if it’s easier? Please drop a note in the comments so that this isn’t a problem any longer. I am so sorry that I’m only just learning how tricky this has been.

Reign of Christ seems to be a Sunday I skipped last year. There is nothing here for that Sunday though I can’t remember a Sunday n my ministry when it wasn’t the focus of worship. I always liked the movement of meditating on the wonder of God’s reign and Christ’s place in the world before diving into the uncertainty of Advent where it feels unclear where God is. The realm of God is, however, really hard to imagine. It feels even harder now and so I find myself wandering back into the familiar words of that beloved prayer that Jesus taught us.

The following prayers are adaptations for prayers I wrote for First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Smithville, MO and Overland Park Christian Church in Overland Park, KS. The two brilliant pastors of those congregations combined forces last year to imagine a special series inviting their beloved people to imagine what life after the long pandemic exile might mean. It was a beautiful series and I was so honored to offer my words to their worship experience and I love how these two friends supported each other in a preaching series that was life-giving to them and their congregations.

Opening Prayer
Inspired by Revelation 1:4b-8

Holy One, our fingers have scrolled 
and turned newsprint pages looking 
for the promise of good news. 

These palms have cradled remotes
and clicked channels scanning the world
inside our living room 
and our bedroom
and even our kitchen
for what might be 
on the other side 
of this. 

We hope our eyes
will see you, O Christ,
while our hands our busy
searching so that 
we can find hope 
and faith in the wonder
that you were there in 
the beginning and
are here now in this
present chaos and 
your glory and power
are imagining what will 
come in the days head. 

Our hands tremble
with hope and possibility. 
We rub our eyes in confusion.
Strengthen these tendons
and muscles with your promise.
Fix our gaze on your glory.
This we pray with the
One who is our Alpha and Omega
and gives us strength in praying...

I love this version of the prayer. There are a lot of other wonderful versions of this prayer that I love to add to worship to make these familiar words come to life in new ways. My current favorite is from the New Zealand Anglican Prayer Book. A visual interpretation follows below. With both of these videos, permissions would still need to be obtained to use them in your worship experience.

Pastoral Prayer
Inspired by Psalm 132:1-12 and John 18:33-37 

O God, the heavens 
and the earth have been shaken. 
We have felt unsteady and uncertain. 
We’ve been tempted 
to relish in the past
when everything seemed easier,
but things are not what they were. 

We are not where we were 
anymore. The world looks different now. 
We are different.
Or so we pray now that we find 
ourselves here waiting for heaven
and earth to meet. 

It’s not what we imagined.
O God, it is nothing like 
we ever imagined when we
thought your realm was not 
from this world. It is still not
here and maybe we though by now
that it should be.
Or it would be.

We never thought it would be this hard.
There have been so many hardships
that will not give sleep to 
our exhausted eyelids.

We have lost of many lives
to this virus. We have lost
lives that were untouched 
by the coronavirus 
but consumed 
by other diseases.
There has been 
so much death
and not enough 
hands to hold
in the loss we share. 

We have lost income
and financial security. 
Best made plans
dissolved with 
all our savings and 
we felt powerless 
as our favorite local businesses 
shuttered and closed. 

We have lost more, O God, 
awaiting your realm to come 
to this earth and into our lives.

We have questions
like Pilate of how you 
can transform this mess 
when we do not know 
how else to help and 
we can't help but give thanks
for the things that we do not know
of your realm. There is so much 
that we do not know so we
pray for the things that 
Christ taught us to pray for:
enough food to fill our bellies, 
forgiveness for all that we cannot understand
and grace to strangers and friends.
We are all connected. Forgive us
for ignoring this fact.
Our bodies are plagued
by the trauma of this pandemic
and we all need love. 
We need the love that
hangs on the end of every question
in our hope for the future. 
We need the glory and power 
of your divine love 
to redeem our present
with hope and wonder.
We pray in the truth
of you are the source
of all that is all that shall be,
Our Eternal Spirit, Earth-Maker, 
Pain-Bearer and Life-Giver. Amen.

If you don’t use the New Zealand version in your worship experience, I recommend adapting that last bit of the pastoral prayer to words that evoke the wonder of the version you have chosen.

As you may know, I’m also hard at work on a special service for the first few weeks in January with something I’m calling New Year Epiphanies. It’s why I didn’t opt for the new year celebration here. It wouldn’t make sense with what I’m imagining for the first Sundays in January.

You can find a brief summary in my kitchen as well as the other materials I’ve created for Advent and Christmas. I pray all of these things help your planning for the upcoming season that I know you are busy imagining with great love.

I am praying for you, dear pastors, liturgists and musicians. I’m praying for you so much.

Spicing Up the Lord’s Prayer

Ask… Search… Knock. Jesus offers these three bits of wisdom in the gospel lesson for this Sunday. Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you (Luke 11:9, NRSV). That sounds great until it hits that you don’t know what to ask. You have no words. You have no idea what to say.

It’s just as frustrating as not knowing what to cook for dinner. You’re hungry, really hungry but you don’t know what you want. Nothing in the fridge that looks good. Nothing grabs you but still you stand there with the door open, starting inside, waiting for inspiration to strike.

Worship is not like a recipe. Other parts of ministry can be written as a recipe but worship is an improvisation of ingredients. It is how those ingredients come together in the people that allows for God to be praised. That’s when things really get cooking! That is when we are transformed by God. I never want worship to feel like we’re standing in front of the fridge just looking to put food on the table. I want it to satisfy and that’s particularly challenging with something like the Lord’s Prayer. It’s like broccoli, right? You know it. You say the words. You don’t really think about it. How do you spice it up?

I am serving a tiny, rural church that doesn’t mix things up very much but I decided that this would be the week to change things just a little. We won’t be praying the same version of the Lord’s Prayer that we always use but will instead be using these beautiful words from the New Zealand Book of Common Prayer. Check out this link for a few other great translations of this beloved prayer (several of which I hadn’t heard before).

The other prayers of the day hope to spice up those familiar words. Here are the ingredients that we will be cooking with on Sunday.

*Call to Worship (Responsive)

One:Together, we come to this certain place to pray

All: for things we understand and those things only God can understand.

One: We come certain that we need to learn new ways of prayer.

All: We come to hear new words from the Word.

Prayer for Confession (Unison)

When we pray, O Lord, we want your love and peace. We are certain that only blessing will come from our time at prayer. Our lives will be holy and blessed but it is you, O Lord, that is revealed in our prayers, not us. We confess that we have convinced ourselves that we can set your world right. Forgive us for believing that we are in charge and do what you do best. Distract us from our own conceit with your way of justice. Teach us to hallow your name.

Affirmation of God’s Grace (Responsive)

One: When we pray, O Lord, words do not come easily but your Word is still speaking. Speak not now, O Lord, and assure us your grace. Put those holy and blessed words on our lips.

All: In Christ we are forgiven. Alleluia! Amen.

This is the first post in what I intend to become a feature on this blog. Check back for more Ingredients for Worship in the future and be sure to share what you’ve cooked up in the comments below!