Prayers On The Way – Martin Stewart

I have been experimenting this year on how I frame the prayers for congregational worship.  I’ve been calling the early prayers in the service of worship ‘Prayers on the way’ as a way of finding a language for what is going on for those who are strangers to some of the old language, and those of us who are bored by some of that stuff!  And I’ve been calling the prayers in the later parts of the service ‘Prayers for the road’.  The feedback from people has been positive, though quite a few others seem not to have noticed!

I wonder sometimes about what we lose when we step back from preparing prayers by either making them up in the moment, or borrowing  prayers from other sources.  Both practices, of course, have their place.  The prayers that rise up in the moment can be profound, but they risk carelessness in language and theology, and sameness in content. The prayers others have crafted can draw on a wonderful collection of prayers from those who have prayed before us and those who pray around us, but if not carefully curated and adapted, they risk being in a language and style that is far from the world of the people before us.  Both styles can also encourage a kind of laziness, where those who prepare worship simply bounce off for whatever is in their head or reach uncritically for whatever resource they can find to rescue them.

This year, I have been challenging myself to draw on my role as resident theologian and carefully craft the prayers I am responsible for in any given week.  It has been, for me, a rather rewarding exercise.  I have begun to explore ways of praying that have been like discovering a treasure trove.  I have also found myself needing to reacquaint myself with what on earth is going on when a prayer is being prayed in a corporate setting. Spiritually it has also become quite fertile ground for me.
Please know that I am not in any way writing this article as some sort of self-promotion exercise, but as an encouragement to the worship leaders among you to have a go at establishing some sort of deliberate prayer writing rhythm.

The following prayer is just one of these deliberated over prayers.  I have sometimes been using a passage of scripture or a quote or even an image as the prompt for the prayer – I put it up on the projected slide and give people time to ponder it before I begin the prayer.  This is a way of encouraging them to enter the prayer in the way that I did, quietly and reflectively.  I figure that this is yet another way of inviting people into God’s spacious presence.  The prayer below uses one of these quotes.

To receive each day is an invitation…each of us is an artist of our days
John O’Donohue Benedictus p203-4

We receive
Giver of Life, we receive from you
Often without gratitude
Often as if entitled
But you give, and give, and give

Bless you!

Bless you for this unfolding day
its rhythms and surprises
its challenges and its delights
Bless you in this day

Bless you for the One who walked among us
and alerted us to your kingdom come
so alive and free
an artist of fearlessness
Bless you for his wide-eyed wonder
and the room he made for people like us

Bless you for Jesus with us still in this unfolding day
its rhythms and surprises
its challenges and its delights
Bless you in this day

Bless you for your Spirit-presence
creating in us the artistry of soulfulness
alerting us, prodding us, inspiring us,
moulding us in your image
Bless you for the scent, the colour,
and the play of your attendance in everything

Bless you for your Spirit with us still in this unfolding day
its rhythms and surprises
its challenges and its delights
Bless you in this day.

We know we have become lessened
by what we have done or not done
We have also become lessened
by what has been done or not done to us
You have no need of our diminishment,
nor do we
You are only interested in our restoration,
so are we

And your word to us is life
food for the soul
release from captivity
light in our eyes
and hope in our days.

We receive
Giver of Life, we receive from you with gratitude

Bless you!


4 thoughts on “Prayers On The Way – Martin Stewart

  1. Wow!!! This is thought-provoking and inspiring. Thanks Martin. I also like the term you use for your role; “resident theologian”


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