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Praying through the Pandemic

By the Rev. William J. Danaher, Jr., Rector

On Thursdays at noon, I have been hosting a “3 Ways to Pray” gathering online, where we learn about and practice new ways to pray (You can join us here).  This past week we offered three different ways to pray through this pandemic.

1) “Praise Song for the Pandemic” – This beautiful prayer was created by Christine Valters Paintner from Abbey of the Arts:

Praise be the nurses and doctors, every medical staff bent over flesh to offer care, for lives saved and lives lost, for showing up either way,

Praise for the farmers, tilling soil, planting seeds so food can grow, an act of hope if ever there was, 

Praise be the janitors and garbage collectors, the grocery store clerks, and the truck drivers barreling through long quiet nights,

Give thanks for bus drivers, delivery persons, postal workers, and all those keeping an eye on water, gas, and electricity,

Blessings on our leaders, making hard choices for the common good, offering words of assurance,

 Celebrate the scientists, working away to understand the thing that plagues us, to find an antidote, all the medicine makers, praise be the journalists keeping us informed,

 Praise be the teachers, finding new ways to educate children from afar, and blessings on parents holding it together for them,

 Blessed are the elderly and those with weakened immune systems, all those who worry for their health, praise for those who stay at home to protect them,

Blessed are the domestic violence victims, on lock down with abusers, the homeless and refugees,

Praise for the poets and artists, the singers and storytellers, all those who nourish with words and sound and color,

Blessed are the ministers and therapists of every kind, bringing words of comfort,

Blessed are the ones whose jobs are lost, who have no savings, who feel fear of the unknown gnawing,

 Blessed are those in grief, especially who mourn alone, blessed are those who have passed into the Great Night,

 Praise for police and firefighters, paramedics, and all who work to keep us safe, praise for all the workers and caregivers of every kind,

 Praise for the sound of notifications, messages from friends reaching across the distance, give thanks for laughter and kindness,

 Praise be our four-footed companions, with no forethought or anxiety, responding only in love,

 Praise for the seas and rivers, forests and stones who teach us to endure,

 Give thanks for your ancestors, for the wars and plagues they endured and survived, their resilience is in your bones, your blood,

 Blessed is the water that flows over our hands and the soap that helps keep them clean, each time a baptism,

 Praise every moment of stillness and silence, so new voices can be heard, praise the chance at slowness,

 Praise be the birds who continue to sing the sky awake each day, praise for the primrose poking yellow petals from dark earth, blessed is the air clearing overhead so one day we can breathe deeply again,

 And when this has passed may we say that love spread more quickly than any virus ever could,

 May we say this was not just an ending but also a place to begin.

 Amen.

 

2) Centering Prayer – Another way to pray is to use a technique called “Centering Prayer” which is a popular meditative prayer developed by Trappist monks. If you have never tried Centering Prayer, here is a short guide:  

  • Find a quiet space where you are unlikely to be disturbed.
  • Sit in a way that allows you to be relaxed in body and alert in mind. Use a chair, meditation cushion or prayer rug, according to your own physical needs and preferences.
  • Gently close your eyes.
  • Allow your heart to open toward that invisible but always present God of all that exists.
  • Whenever you become aware of a thought, no matter what its nature, let it go.
  • Use a “sacred word.” A “sacred word” is a word or short phrase that helps you to let go of thoughts and quiet your mind.  It is a reminder of your intention to remain open to the silence.  Generally sacred words fall into one of 2 categories: “God” words/phrases such as “Abba”, “Jesu, “Mary”, “Reality”, “Come Lord” or “state” words/phrases such as “love”, “peace”, “be still”.  Sacred words are not used as mantras, as in constantly repeating them, but as a reminder of your intention to remain open.

Additional Directions:

Continue this practice for 20 minutes. At the end of the time get up and go about your business, leaving the practice behind, in the same way you let go of your thoughts.

People who are just beginning, and are particularly restless in mind and body, may find it easier to start off with shorter prayer periods, perhaps only 5 minutes per sit to start. Then after a few days extend the time to 10 minutes and so on until you are able to sit for 20 minutes. Give the practice at least 2 weeks before you decide if it is right for you.

 

3) Intercessions – Jesus holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)

Jesus Christ, great high priest,

living for ever to intercede for us,

pray for the Church, your broken body in the world.

Lord, hear us.

Lord, graciously hear us.

 

Jesus Christ, king of righteousness,

enthroned at the right hand of the majesty on high,

pray for the world and its leaders, and make them subject to your gentle rule.

Lord, hear us.

Lord, graciously hear us.

 

Jesus Christ the Healer,

who gave comfort and balm to the sick,

pray for those first responders, doctors and nurses, caregivers, and other essential workers

who give of themselves

so that others may have life; especially for …

Lord, hear us.

Lord, graciously hear us.

 

Jesus Christ, Son of Man,

drawing humanity into the life of God,

pray for your brothers and sisters in need, distress, or sorrow, especially for …

Lord, hear us.

Lord, graciously hear us.

 

For all the prayers and thanksgivings we have received during this service:

Silence as we offer prayers silently and aloud.

Lord, hear us.

Lord, graciously hear us.

 

Jesus Christ, pioneer of our salvation,

bringing us to glory through your death and resurrection,

surround with your saints and angels

those who have died trusting your promises

and those whose faith is known to you alone, especially …

Lord, hear us.

Lord, graciously hear us.

 

Jesus Christ,

keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit

and in the bond of peace,

and bring the whole created order to worship at your feet;

for you are alive and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever. Amen.

 

 

Additional prayers:

lord
grant that
my word
borne of darkness
might tempt you
and stand by me
that i never lose my hunger
and make my exile
one I could always lose
as well
as my homeland

— 99 Psalms by SAID

 

A closing prayer:

Christ yesterday and today,

the beginning and the end,

Alpha and Omega,

all time belongs to you,

and all ages;

to you be glory and power

through every age and forever.

 Amen