(Commissioned for Lenten resource in 2020 by St. Paul’s UMC, Houston, TX)
All prayers written by Rev. M Barclay, enfleshed
Spirit of God,
when paths of transformation
lead me into times of wilderness –
periods of learning and unlearning,
realities winding and unruly,
may your presence be my steady companion.
If I feel afraid
of the unfamiliar or unknown –
a stranger to where you are leading,
remind me I do not go alone.
All who seek your Wisdom are wandering.
When I forget, remind me this is part of Love’s work.
Help me to be patient with my journey,
letting Love set the pace.
If I feel ashamed,
confronted by regrets,
embarrassed by ignorance,
or trapped by snares of guilt…
may your grace be near,
and let courage steady my way.
To you, I will turn for nourishment along the way.
Remembering the simple pleasures of being alive.
Of being together.
Of being among the creations of your hand.
There is no stretch of the earth where delight cannot be found.
All with the desire to further the common good,
lead me more deeply into the heart of Love.
In the company of your promises,
faith shall be my guide.
when you first stirred the waters
and breathed into the soil of the earth,
all life was able to flourish.
From birth to death, there was enough.
Creatures and creations lived in cooperation.
The land. The water. The animals. The people.
All part of the family of God.
But as evil and greed permeated the hearts of humanity,
so began the interruption of Love’s natural rhythms.
We distanced ourselves from our creaturely neighbors,
and began to see the land as little more than fields of profit.
We have made ourselves strangers to our own home,
neglecting the wild in us,
forgetting our place among the whole of things.
Renew us, O God,
to right-relationship with the earth,
with our own bodies born from soil and water,
with our neighbors who bear the worst consequences of our consumption and negligence.
May we be the ones who mend what has been destroyed,
who confront the powerful who plunder and leave barren,
who desires transformation of our own hearts and practices,
that life’s abundance may be restored upon the earth,
and all creatures and creations
may rest in your care.
in the midst of all the world’s noise,
we struggle to hear your whispers of care.
“Come and rest,”
Our never-ending lists,
days too short,
pressures so high,
they make us weary.
Whether our labor is paid,
or the search for work is our toil.
Whether we tend with care to the needs of our loved ones at home
or gift time to the collective cries for justice,
there are so many ways we grow tired.
patient and inviting.
“Come and rest,”
again and again.
To trust in You
is to remember limitations,
and let our earnest offerings be enough.
You do not ask any one person to lift the burdens from the world.
The Sacred labors of life
belong to all of us and none of us.
For everything that doesn’t get done..
For all that we desire to protect but cannot…
For every hurt we cannot tend…
Fill us with a deep assurance,
of your presence that abides in all things,
Through all things.
You abandon no one in their struggle.
Let your Sabbath be our renewal
of body, of mind, of spirit.
though you are as close as our own breath,
still, we treat you as a distant stranger.
Forgive us for the ways we Other you
because we cannot bear the possibilities
of recognizing you in our own flesh.
More comfortable with a god we cannot imagine
than one who is queer,
falling in love,
or just learning to walk,
we deny the holy of our neighbors.
We bury the Sacred in us.
Forgive us for believing the ones who tell us
there’s somewhere you’d rather be than here:
In these bodies.
On this land.
In our neighbors.
Mother of Life,
You dwell within.
You linger around.
You are always within reach.
That Love is so close,
That Justice is so near –
We can hardly believe,
But God, we desire to.
Plant in me, O God,
Your visions of restoration.
I long to be a field
where all your hopes blossom;
Make my heart a place of refuge,
for every shattered dream of peace.
Let my imagination run wild,
as dreams of Justice are birthed from within.
I don’t want to waste this life
shackled by despair,
confined by fear,
a stranger to the miracle of being alive.
I want to be fully awake
to all the beauty that surrounds.
I want to be determined in hope –
a relentless pursuer of what could be.
I want to be a messenger of belonging,
to every soul that weighs heavy
under narratives of bigotry or hate.
I have known what it is to be a stranger to joy.
But this ancient story of love,
sustaining generation after generation,
in labors of liberation –
it frees me from my fear.
No longer will I view life on evil’s terms.
No more will I submit to rules of dominance.
But in the freedom of Christ,
You make my spirit rise.
You hold all the world’s grief close.
With every word that cuts,
every policy that demeans,
every act of violence or corruption,
You draw near to the ones who ache.
You comfort the broken hearted
and shore up beside the afflicted.
We know it’s not enough only to weep,
but your compassion reminds us
we cannot mend the world
without bearing witness to its sorrow.
Keep us from despair that overcomes,
but never let us become strangers to the world’s ache –
turning away from the pain of our neighbor,
or growing accustomed to violence that shouldn’t be.
Whatever evil may befall us,
whatever destruction we may witness,
may we never grow cold to Love
or be convinced of the inevitability of cruelty.
Jesus, ever-present to the pain around him,
did not escape into the safety of indifference –
even in the shadow of the cross.
His care for the suffering
and his confidence in your liberating ways,
made him kind,
softened him to even the hardest hearts,
and kindled in him Your love for humanity.
Love that appears foolish.
Love that resists evil.
Love that makes way for the Kindom.
Make it so among us, O God,
and lead us in the ways of compassion.
your Strange ways,
they astound us.
Among the mighty, your Wisdom is called foolish.
While others assert their power with force,
Yours unfolds like an invitation.
You never resort to weapons.
You turn from all paths of domination.
Beauty and truth are your means of persuasion.
Freedom is your promise.
While empire shouts false promises of security,
using fear to turn us against each other,
You whisper things of vulnerability,
of meals at table and sharing what we have,
of solidarity and new life.
When you, the Sacred, took on flesh,
You sought neither thrones nor prestige,
but made your friends among the outcast.
The hungry and the ill.
The fed up and the weary.
Though you were presented with every opportunity
to seek importance among the elite,
to the end, you choose the edges,
making your home among the vulnerable,
living in solidarity with the criminalized and despised.
we hope to be strange like you.
Strangers to all that normalizes evil,
to power that corrupts,
to practices that demean or neglect.
Make us faithful to the peculiar calling of Christ.
Unafraid to bear the names of the despised.
Firmly planted in the confidence of your Holy Mystery –
the strange love that calls us to fight with and for each other,
and awakens us to the joy you set before us.
– Rev. M Barclay, enfleshed