The Prayer Box
by The Rev. Daniel P. Strandlund | September 13, 2018Hi friends, this past Sunday I introduced one of St. Elizabeth’s new ways of supporting each other and our loved ones in prayer. Because not all of us were able to be here this past Sunday, I’ve decided to write about it here, as well.
Several weeks ago, a new idea of how to pray for each other presented itself. One of our members, Will Piferrer, wrote a guest article about his upcoming pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. (You can read about his pilgrimage here. He’s almost finished!) In preparing for that pilgrimage, Will invited us to write our prayers and intentions on little cards, which he would then carry on our behalf into the cathedral of one of our sister churches in Spain at the end of his journey. Those cards were available on the sound table near the front of our worship space. I, like dozens of you, wrote one and sealed it for Will to take.
Many of us noticed how good it would be to have something like that going on all the time, a simple, informal way to commit our prayers into God’s hands by way of our community. Thus, the Prayer Box from Will’s pilgrimage remains, only now put to broader use.
It’s simple: if you have a prayer request, write it on one of the cards on top of the sound equipment table, and put it in the Prayer Box. When our Morning Prayer group gathers on the following Tuesday at 8:30am, as we do each week, we will take the prayers from the Prayer Box and pray them out loud before God’s altar on your behalf—without judgment and without assuming you want us to do anything other than pray for you.
Your prayers can be as specific, general, brief, or long as you feel necessary. You may simply write a name down, or write a longer, more specific prayer addressed to God, if you like. You may sign your name if you wish, or you may leave the prayer anonymous. All I ask is that you write legibly J And as a reminder, Morning Prayer is Tuesdays at 8:30am, and everyone is welcome.
I want to be clear: the prayers and intentions we sent with Will on his pilgrimage remained sealed and confidential, unopened by anyone. From now on, the written prayers in the Prayer Box will not be confidential; we will read them—pray them on your behalf—before the altar. This means I will see them, as will one or more of the folks who have come to Morning Prayer that week (which is open to everyone). When Morning Prayer is over, I will dispose of the prayers appropriately.
One of my favorite prayers from Morning Prayer is a prayer attributed to St. John Chrysostom. You can find it on page 102 of The Book of Common Prayer. It goes like this:
Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you; and you have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them: Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen.
This past week we had five prayers in the Prayer Box on Tuesday morning. When it came time for intercession, the handful of us who had gathered prayed our own prayers, and then we divided up those five from the Prayer Box amongst us and prayed them on behalf of the folks who had written them. Then we said those words from St. John Chrysostom, making our “common supplication” to God. In praying out loud what others had written, I was struck by just how true those words are: our supplications are “common” because they belong to each of us, for each of us is part of the Church, Christ’s Body. Christ is with us always, yet even more so whenever “two or three are gathered together in his Name.”
But even more deeply than that, our supplications are “common” because they are the supplications of Jesus himself to God. Each Sunday morning, we pray “in the words our Savior Christ has taught us,” and then begin the Lord’s Prayer. Yet we don’t pray those words only because Jesus told us, too (though that’s reason enough). We pray them because the pilgrimage Jesus invites us into, the one he has pioneered and perfected on our behalf, the Way of the Cross—that pilgrimage ends with our becoming one with Christ, becoming his body and blood, which is to say that our earthly pilgrimage ends with our coming to enjoy God with the same fullness as Jesus does.
When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, that’s what we’re practicing: that we, too, can and will call God ‘Father’ as Jesus himself does. We are praying the words of Christ our companion on the way, and in those words we speak to God from within Christ’s relationship with Him.
When we pray for each other, we are trusting that God accepts our prayers on their behalf as though it were Christ Himself praying, as though each of us were praying on their behalf something similar to Jesus’ words in Gethsemane: “Take this cup from them, Father, but thy will be done.”
This Tuesday morning, we prayed in the words of one of our sisters or brothers in our community here at St. Liz, and we spoke to God through their words. And just like we are with Christ when we say the Lord’s Prayer, in that moment we were somehow with them in their journey. Whatever Golgotha or shining mountain top is on their horizon, we were with them, and they were with us—because Christ has already traversed all terrain, and so whenever we pray, whatever shadowed valley or mountain top we pray from, the words God hears are those of his only begotten Son.