Post-evangelical prayers

Hi friends,

After a bit of a partial hiatus, I’ve gotten back in a rhythm of posting a (brief) new prayer 2-3 times/week at my @postevangelicalprayers Instagram account.

My hope in these prayers is to explore – for myself and for anyone else who might resonate – what prayer looks like post-evangelicalism. For me, there are ways I used to pray when I was part of the evangelical universe that just don’t make sense anymore. I feel like I’ve lost a lot of well-worn scaffolds for prayer, and I would like to take part in building something new.

My hope is that these “post-evangelical prayers” point toward a God whose love is more vast than evangelicalism teaches and whose Spirit unambiguously moves in the direction of justice.

I thought I’d share a couple recent prayers here, since not everyone uses IG. I’m also very open to your thoughts & feedback if you’re someone who doesn’t use IG regularly but who enjoys these prayers and would like to see more. Is there another format that would work well for you? (FB page? Separate blog? Something else?)

Whether or not you use IG, I’d also love to hear any suggestions of words, themes, thoughts, experiences, realities, Bible passages, etc. that you’d like to see incorporated into future prayers. What’s on your mind that you don’t know how to pray about? (Not that I will know, but…we can reflect together.)

Here are a couple recent prayers:

God,
You know all the ones we have lost.
You know how we loved: imperfect, but real.
We choose to trust that your love holds them.
They did not need to pray a Sinner’s Prayer
or take communion 
or recite the Four Spiritual Laws
for you to know them and want their good.
Surely today they are with you in paradise.
Amen.


God,
You are the one questers always find.
We go looking, and there you are.
Not particularly concerned with how we seek, 
just that we seek.
“Inclusive” doesn’t quite cover it,
because with you there was never any out-group.
There was never that power dynamic.
We come to you as equals—
the only way we can.
Amen.

Peace to you this weekend,

Liz

Epiphany prayer

I wrote a prayer based on what I’ve heard six different elders share at church these last couple Sundays. Thought I’d share it here too.

The prompt was something like this: What epiphany have you had recently (that is, what do you feel like God has revealed to you), and what are you doing with it?

So grateful for each of these amazing humans’ insights and vulnerability.

God of our ancestors, 
There has never been a person, a family, 
a generation you have not seen.
You saw their struggles and their joys, 
their celebrations and their desperation.
We honor them, and, in so doing, we honor you.
Your love encompasses them as surely as your love encompasses us.

God who dwells in hard histories,
You give us strength to see and not deny the past.
You walk with us as we reshape narratives, fill in the gaps, 
remember things as they happened
and not how we wish they were, or what we were taught to believe.

God of the advocates,
Thank you for the gift of knowing that we were already praying,
even when we didn’t know it.
You have been in every plea for justice,
every act of care for another human being,
everything we did to make sure someone knew they had value
and were not forgotten.
Help us move toward justice, love, and peace,
trusting you are near even when we don’t feel you.

God who kicks down doors,
Give us courage to face our places of privilege.
Give us the nerve to push for equity.
Open the doors that need to be opened
and tear down the doors that need to be torn down.
Invite us to make good trouble with you.

God who is near to the lonely,
Help us accept our loneliness and find you,
somehow, in the murky midst of it.
When friends don’t know how to care for us, you are with us, still.
When comforting words fall flat in the face of our grief,
and well-intentioned platitudes just make us angry,
you make room for us to yell and cry and grieve.
Our full humanity is not too much for you.

God who invites us to lie down in green pastures,
You are not our boss.
You do not buy into capitalism’s lies that say we must always be working,
always producing, worth only as much as we produce and consume.
You are the God who rests.
You are the God who invites us to rest.
Overturn tables set with the greed of a few to the detriment of all.
Break the connection between money and value.
Restore our sleep, our bodies, our minds, our health, 
our courage to resist these systems that were not built for us.

God who believes in us,
Remind us that there is more to us than we might know,
more than others might recognize.
Sing over us your songs of worth, precious value, wisdom,
courage to be exactly who you made us to be.
You created us as you wanted us to be.
Let no one tell us otherwise.
Fill us with hope for a future we can’t quite yet imagine.
May our dreams move in your directions.
Help us remember that each one of us is necessary.

God whose star the magi followed,
Reveal yourself to us:
your broad inclusivity, your redeeming power,
your advocacy, your table-turning justice, 
your tender presence in our darkest times,
your rest, your restoration, your kindness,
the glory of your creation in us and around us.
Reveal among us the different kind of community you build.
Help us go a different way from the well-trod violent paths
so easily available to us.
Make peace in, among, and through us.
Amen.

Advent prayer: Soul

An Advent poem/prayer on the theme of “soul.”

Soul

God,

I want to live and move 
out of the depths of my soul.

I want to see soul in everyone I meet. 

I want to be connected with my soul.

So many forces have tried to break this connection.
Sometimes it feels like they have succeeded.
But not entirely.

I want to know my soul, 
and to know that she is worth knowing.

I want to live in communities 
where souls are seen and honored, 
reconnected with themselves, 
connected with one another
in love, trust, acceptance.

God, they say institutions have souls. 
So many of them are so bent, so broken. 

I don’t want to move in spaces 
that ask me to cut my soul off at the door.

God, restore my soul. 
Heal her. 

Help me trust her again, 
even when everything around me tells me not to. 

Amen.

A couple other pieces elsewhere on the web, if you’re looking for some (short and sweet) Christmas break reading:

  • A prayer and some reflections on joy – over at Christians for Social Action. Reflecting on the connections between joy, activism, and purpose. And Mary’s Song, because it’s Christmas. With appreciative shout-outs to Karen Walrond, Rebecca Solnit, & Cherrie Moraga.
  • I participated in a Patheos “seasonal holidays” initiative where I got to choose among a number of predetermined prompts…thinking and writing about New Years resolutions seemed fun, so here we are: How Do I Make Religious New Years Resolutions?
  • Still meandering through the Bible-themed part of a series of reflections on faith-related things I’ve changed my mind about. The latest: What Does It Mean to Read the Bible for Guidance?
  • Also, if you want to get an email whenever I post on Patheos, feel free to sign up here. (I believe this link should get you my posts specifically, not just Patheos Progressive Christian posts in general – please let me know if you experience something different :).)

Peace to you this Christmas.

Advent prayer: Release

A poem/prayer, reflecting on the theme “release.”

I’ve been reading an indigenous memoir called The Woman Who Watches Over the World, by Linda Hogan. One of the things Hogan says happened when she was in the hospital recovering from a traumatic brain injury was that she asked all the questions that had gone unasked and unanswered in her family.

Something about the ways her brain had changed and was changing released her from whatever fears or inhibitions had kept her from asking these things before.

I wonder what it looks like to be released into freedom to say the things we are afraid to say, but which are important, and which hold possibilities for healing.

Here’s the poem/prayer:

Release

God,

We hold anxiety in our bodies, more than we know.
We hold so much.

The news is depressing, overwhelming.
Our lives fall apart in an instant
and there is no room to mourn.

The pressures of our world build up inside us 
over a long time.
Muscles clenched and tight, hearts hurting.

What would release mean?
Is it in our power?

And if our souls found release, 
what exactly would come out?

Words unspoken, thoughts unvoiced, 
fullness of humans shrunken too long
to fit whatever was expected of them. 

A valve holds back all the “too much,” 
all the improper, the inappropriate, 
the rage.

These rivers were not meant 
to be dammed up inside us.

God, hold us in the release.

In your voice that says exactly what needs to be said 
and never lies.

In your being that encompasses us 
and is not drowned by our rivers.

God, provide safe people, 
safe spaces for release.

Provide people who will bring their full selves, 
and who won’t run away when we bring ours.

Because we’re all a lot.

God, release us into freedom.

Amen.

Advent prayer: Favor

A poem/prayer on the theme “favor.” Perhaps a loaded word depending on the church-y circles you may have been in. I’m wrestling with that here, as well as more generally what favor could mean in an unjust world.

Favor

God,

I don’t want the kind of favor 
where I have more and someone else has less.

I want your favor for everyone I know.

Favor in the good things they’re doing.
Favor in the good people they are, 
the good inside of them.

Favor to know they’re loved.

Favor that gives confidence 
to keep trying, keep growing, keep moving.

God, I don't know that I want unconditional favor.

I want the kind that will get my attention 
when I start to go the wrong way.

The kind that will direct and redirect 
my feet onto good paths.

I don’t want the kind of favor 
that keeps me happily singing Jesus songs
while my theology, my words, my actions, my attitudes 
make others suffer.

I want the kind of favor 
that opens up a new world.

Favor to level mountains and raise up valleys.

Favor such that all are valued, 
all live freely and in joy.

Favor toward a world where barriers, hierarchies, injustices 
are washed away.

Favor like the sun’s warmth 
after weeks of rain.

Favor like the smile of a baby 
who has not yet learned to distrust.

Favor that holds us together 
when everything falls apart.

Amen.

Unrelatedly, a few other updates:

Advent prayer: Wisdom

Continuing with the theme of “Advent poem/prayers from 2021 that I’m still feeling”… The word for this one is “wisdom.”

Wisdom

God,

There is wisdom in our souls, deep down.
There is so much we don’t know.

We carry some wisdom 
and we need other humans for the rest.

We need the whole of creation
as our wisdom teachers.

The wise ones move in cycles of receiving, giving,
mutual respect, gracious attention.

God, in our world 
the wisest ones often go unheard.

We clamber after the confident ones, 
the smooth-talking ones, 
the quick-thinking ones, 
the shiny put-together polished ones.

But wisdom is carried 
in bodies who keep the score of suffering,
in wrinkled faces who have laughed and cried too much 
to bother putting up a front.

Wisdom is slow-moving.
She refuses to be commodified. 
We often rush right past.

God, help us not miss wisdom 
in our rush to say the right thing.

Help us not miss wisdom 
in our inattentiveness, 
in our tendency to think we know things.

Help us not miss wisdom 
as we still ourselves and wait.

Give us patience, as long as it takes.

We wait in the dark, where wisdom hides, 
that we might find her.

Amen.

Advent prayer: Open

Last Advent season, in 2021, I wrote a bunch of poem/prayers, responding to different daily one-word prompts offered by my church.

This Advent season felt like a good time to revisit these prayers and share some of the ones that still resonate. This one is on theme: open.

Open

God,
I want to be open 
with an openness that knows its boundaries 
and guards them zealously.

An openness that wells up from deep within 
and is not pressed or forced or manipulated.

I want to shut out so much.

I need to learn to shut out so much:
the insulters, the tired misogynist tropes, 
the name-callers, the actors in bad faith.

And yet, as I learn to shut them out, 
I want to be open.

Open to wonder. To awe. 
To the things I have yet to learn.

Open to beauty, to nature, to art.
Open to joy, to breaking open and being remade.

Open to challenge and correction 
from those who love me and are for me.

Open to letting people surprise me 
with their generosity, their kindness, 
their capacity for transformation.

There is goodness in the world.
It is not only sorrow.

God, in your extravagant profligate openness 
you created humans—
raw, unpredictable, glorious, fickle.

You know everything but were open 
to being surprised by us.

Help me be open to being surprised, too.
Amen.	

Are there parts of this prayer that you feel? Other prayers or reflections that come to mind when you think of openness?

On an unrelated note, this is what I’ve been up to writing-wise since the last update (and as a reminder, you can always go to the “on the web” page to see what’s new…or old…).

  1. Do Not Worry: A Communal Approach (Red Letter Christians)

For a while (like, October 2021 – Feb 2022), I was blogging a lot about the passage in Matthew where Jesus tells people not to worry. It started with a mini-sermon from church and then went all sorts of places, from worry as a good thing, to the feminine side of God, to what does and doesn’t add an hour to our lives, to what it might look like to learn from the wildflowers. And those are just a few.

Do Not Worry: A Communal Approach is a piece I wrote as part of that series and then thought, I wonder if someone wants to publish this one. Many months later, here we are!

2. On Hope: Prayers & Reflections (Christians for Social Action)

This is the first in a four-part series on the weekly themes of Advent (hope, peace, love, joy). It incorporates some of the prayers I wrote last year with new reflections on what these words might mean in our world. Featuring lots of engagement with activist scholars & writers.

3. When Clarity of Belief is Important (Patheos)

I wrote some things about my discomfort with belief statements and how they’re sometimes used – but of course everything is more complicated than that. When Clarity of Belief is Important adds a little of that complexity, particularly with LGBTQ+ people/communities in mind.

4. A Crisis of Authority – or, Life in the Mud (Patheos)

Starting off a series of reflections on how my views of authority (Bible, church, pastors, etc.) have changed over time. This post explores in a general way what crises of authority can look like…and how they can feel.

As always, thoughts about any of this are very welcome!

Lament Wall Prayer

At the beginning of Lent, a team of people from my church put up an amazing “Lament Wall” in the courtyard. People were invited to write down prayers and laments on pieces of paper and stick them in the cracks of the wall. Prayers written during church services were stuck in there, joined later by prayers written by the elementary schoolers involved in the church’s afterschool program.

There are so many prayers in there. It’s beautiful, and heavy.

I had the privilege of teaming up with Sue Kesler to write a “Prayers of the People” kind of prayer based on a lot of the prayers in the wall. I wanted to share with you what we came up with, because, while it’s based on the prayers of our particular community, most of the cries of our hearts are not unique to us. We are not alone.

Here’s the prayer; the words in bold are meant as a kind of response, read together by the congregation. Peace to you this Good Friday.

Prayers of the People (Lament Wall Prayer)

God, as we come together in this space, hear our prayers of lament. Thank you for holding and treasuring every prayer we’ve put in the lament wall and every prayer we hold in our hearts.

God, our wounds are real, both the physical ones and the ones that are harder to see.
We long for your healing, comforting touch.
We ask for your special nearness to those who have cancer.
We ask for your special nearness to those whose family or other loved ones have cancer. 
God, would your loving presence be so near to the kids among us whose parents are sick — so near that they can reach out and touch you. Wrap them with your love like a big bear hug.

God, you are our strength and provider. You are our healer. Show yourself to us.

God, for the emotional wounds we carry and often feel we need to hide.
That you would lead us into safe spaces where we can reveal them and be loved into wholeness —  a healing that isn’t rushed but is patient, however long it takes.
You know how we have been hurt. You know how we hurt, still.
For all those who are tired, discouraged, and afraid, hold us.
Breathe new life through your Spirit who lives in and among us.

God, you are near to the brokenhearted. Lift up, comfort, and empower us.

God, we pray for the relationships that are broken, difficult, or not what we hoped they might be.
For the families among us who are estranged and long for reconciliation.
For the relationships that come with tension  — we long for patience, understanding, and grace.
For relationships that are changing, we ask for peace — for comfort in the grief that comes with loss, and for joy in the new things.
God, just as you have reconciled all to yourself, help us in the healing of relationships, especially in our families.

God, you join together what was separate and restore what was broken. Make a way for us to live in peace with one another.

God, we ask for your presence with those who are in grief. 
We remember those we have lost.
Give us space, gentleness, and safety — to name our griefs, make room for them, and not run from them.
Unite in love the families and friends who experience loss together. 
Help us help one another in our grief.
In the rough mornings and in the evenings full of tears, be with us.
Give us songs of lament that we can sing and know that we are heard.
Make room for our sadness.

God, you mourn with those who mourn. There is no tear we’ve shed that you haven’t seen. You are big enough to hold our grief.

God, we lift up to you the material needs among us. 
For those who need work, and for those who long for greater purpose in work.
We pray for those starting new jobs.
For those who need financial breakthrough.
For those who need a car.
For those who need a place to live.
God, all money belongs to you. Please meet our financial needs, so that we are better able to meet the needs of others.
God, please supply the work of our hands that is needed by all.

God, you know our needs. Take care of us, and help us take care of one another.

God, even as we long for justice, we lament our complicity with injustice.
Please forgive us for ignoring your pleading voice, calling us not up and out of, but instead, down and into.
We lament our failure to acknowledge the stolen land we live on and the indigenous peoples around and among us.
We lament the ways we hoard instead of share.
The ways we compete rather than support.
The ways we exclude rather than include.
The ways we act like there isn’t enough to go around.
Our callousness to injustice and violence.

God, bring justice to all and for all. Make us aware of our complicity in injustice so that we can repent of it and move beyond it. Make us new.

God, we long for transformation.
For the grace to accept your blessings and rejoice in them.
To move beyond lament to repair and reconciliation.
To be filled with a kind of love beyond what we’ve been able to muster up on our own.
When we are humbled, help us receive it as a gift from you.
Move us from entitlement to gratitude and generosity.
Transform how we consume.
Help us recognize your voice and be able to clearly hear what you are saying to us.

God, you are always changing us. Help us be willing to be changed.

God, we lift up our hopes to you. 
Our hopes to travel.
Our hopes for a dream job.
For those who hope to be parents, please bless them with children. 
We hope for safety — for all of us and especially for the children and youth among us. 
Bless our young people as you ready them to be the new voice in your world.
We hope for peace.

God, you hold our hopes, the ones named here and the ones in our hearts. Help us hold tight to your hope and extend that hope to others.

God, we thank you.
For the ways community has shown up for us.
For the ways we’ve been welcomed.
For the ways you’ve helped us and helped those we love.
For the ways our gifts have blessed others.
For your promises that have come true in our lives.
For bringing us together into this community.
Your blessings are countless. Thank you.
May our gratefulness overflow.

God, every good gift comes from you. Thank you.

Holy God, we praise you and we praise your name. Help us to live lives that praise you.

Prayer: prepare

I wrote this prayer back in Advent, but it feels about right for the last week or so. Grieving for and with those most impacted by violence, by power moving through our world in perverse ways.

The original Advent prompt word was “prepare.”

Prepare

God, the weight of the world is still here. 
I know I was not meant to bear it all, but I still feel it.
I often want to do something, anything, but am not sure what to do. 
And I don’t want to move just to assuage my guilt about my own comfort 
while others suffer in a violent world. 
I want to move with you, in you, through you, in your spirit, 
in your confidence, guided by you, in your love. 
Healing will not come through frantic directionless striving, 
but through quieting myself to listen to your voice, 
and through quieting the world to listen to myself, 
and through quieting everything to listen to the labor-pain groaning of the world. 
I have finite time and power and energy and gifts. 
I want to find what I have to offer and offer it fully. 
I don’t want to bear the weight of anything else.
God, prepare me for the work you have for me. 
I am so easily distracted by people’s approval or disapproval, 
by respectability, by societal notions of success. 
Help me move, help me wait, help me be patient, help me be bold. 
Guide me with your wisdom. 
And help me learn to trust my own wisdom, the kind you’ve given me, again. 
Amen.

Prayer: Stillness

During Advent I followed along with my church’s word-of-the-day photo challenge – sort of. Instead of taking pictures, I wrote a prayer inspired by each word.

This basically meant that I would word vomit whatever came to mind each weekday morning as I contemplated God and life and the world and the word of the day. And then in the afternoons I would edit this lengthy journal-confession-prayer-rage thing into a prayer I was willing to share with my little corner of Instagram.

I’m looking back at these prayers now and feeling like many of them aren’t just for Advent. So I thought I might share some of them here every now and then – for example, the one below. Because (over)work and (lack of) rest is not just an Advent thing.

Let me know if or how you resonate with this prayer, or what you’d add from your own reflection on stillness – I’d love to hear.

Stillness

God,
Chosen stillness is a sacred thing.
We are hard-pressed to choose it; some more so than others.
Demands rush upon us constantly from every side.
I have access to stillness but do not always choose it.
Something within me says go and go and do and do.
God, help me separate that something from you.
The one who drives me to strive and strive until I break inside—
that one is not you.
The one who sets impossible benchmarks and then beats me up if I don’t reach them—
that one is not you.
The one who only sees my failures, my limitations—
that one is not you.
The one who always wants things done faster, and more things done—
that one is not you.
The one who shames me if I need others’ help, who expects independence and rewards it with pride—
that one is not you.
You are in the stillness.
You are the space-maker of every location where we can drop our guards and come alive.
In the stillness we are not alone.
Amen.