Festival Prayers

This morning, I was part of a group that led worship at the Festival of Homiletics in Minneapolis. What do you get when you gather 1100 preachers from all over the planet, put Karoline Lewis in the pulpit, Rachel Kurtz and Lowell Mickelson on hand drums, Jonathan Rundman on mandolin, Nate Houge on guitar and me telling everyone to rise and sit? Well, it makes for an alright worship. Some of you asked about the prayers. Yes, I wrote them. Yes, you can use them/rip them off. No, you don't need to tell anyone where you got them.

On a sidenote, one of you fine preachers said you want to be able to write prayers like this. And what I can tell you is this: you can. Of course you can. First, let go of all that churchy language. I like polished language as much as the next person. I really love well-crafted, thoughtful prayers. But it often feels that in our crafting, we use about the same 10 words/phrases over and over until they have completely lost their meaning.

Pitfall to avoid: What you might be tempted to do is work at being hip or relative. That will never work. (Look at us, people. We are complete dorks. It's okay. Claim it and stop trying to be otherwise.) What you can do is think of yourself as a translator. Think about all those beautiful churchy theological statements. Now picture yourself sitting at your local bar or coffeeshop and throwing about those words. Ick! Who talks like that? I'm not saying to dumb things down. I'm saying--use normal words to describe what it is you are getting at.  Because if you are using language that only your colleagues use--then you have completely forgotten/left out  your gathered body.

Alright, I will stop preaching. Here they are:

(Based on John 14: 1-14)

Let us pray for the church and all those in need. (silence) Abiding Christ, we know you are with us. Our education, experience and our Grandma's tell us you are here. Yet, so often we forget. Quite frankly, it feels easier to just do things on our own. Our way. On our timeline. Lone rangers have their place, Lord. Dictators get stuff done. Managers are effective. But this morning, we hear that you not only send us, but you go along with us. You command us to love but first empower us to love. Help us recognize that we do not function alone, that we are not in charge, that you do not need us to manage you, that we are not in control. Lord, in your mercy...

Abiding Christ, if the world does indeed end on Saturday, we look forward to what you have prepared for us. We trust that you will sort out who gets which room and we do not have to scramble for the best view. If Sunday morning comes and we are, in fact, still around, give us eyes and hearts and bold visions for what we are able to do here in this kingdom. In our churches. In our neighborhoods. Maybe even push us to find rooms and safe dwellings for those who woke up in shelters this morning. Lord, in your mercy...

Abiding Christ, you have called us to be preachers of your word. Thank you. It is such a strange job. We stand in pulpits on Sundays, hoping we haven't missed the Good in the News. We pray we don't screw it up. That we might have something to offer those who have gathered. And then Monday rolls around and we begin the whole process again. Give us patience, persistance, humor, humility, creativity, collegiality and honesty in this work. Lord, in your mercy...