I did not grow up in a faith tradition that commonly recites written prayers. In fact I used to think that reading rote prayers was not good for my faith at all. All that has changed over the last few years as I have both started to write and use prayers written by others specifically for use in group settings.
The publishing of Light for the Journey: Morning and Evening Prayers for Living into God’s World, has made me realize that I am not alone in the craving for prayers to recite on a regular basis alone or together with a community of fellow journeyers. Prayers strengthen our faith, build up the community of God and help to motivate us to move forward into God’s purposes for our lives. They can also move us beyond the chronic randomness of daily devotions that skip from place to place with little if any rational sequence.
I write prayers for several reasons.
First when I am struggling to understand theological truths I find that writing short prayers related to the topic really help me to get my own thoughts from my head to my heart. When I recite the prayers aloud they resonate deep within my soul increasing my confidence in the truths of God’s word and urging me to respond.
Second I write prayers because I have found that reciting prayers as a community is a wonderful way to bind us together with common beliefs and values. I am more and more convinced that when we read the same prayers together in community they bind us together in a way that reading spontaneous random prayers never does. They can even bind us together across distances. When communities of people around the world are all recite the same prayers together at the same time a bond forms that is beyond description.
Third I write prayers that focus on issues of justice and the need for unity because I have found that many of my activist friends are looking for resources that strengthen their faith in the principles of God’s kingdom purposes.
Forth I write prayers because I have discovered that I have a talent for writing prayers that others find helpful in strengthening their faith.
Spontaneity in prayer and worship is important but reciting prayers that others have written is also important and is an art that I think all of us need to rediscover.