Ann Arbor First Church Prays

Ann Arbor First Church Prays
A daily prayer offered through June 2, the last day of Michigan’s Annual Conference

On Sunday, May 5, Leadership Council held an information session about the uncertainty in the United Methodist Church after General Conference 2019 and the recent Judicial Council rulings. (You may listen to a podcast of that session here.)

In determining how we respond, Leadership Council encouraged us to pray.

Your church staff embraces the idea of our community praying for wisdom and guidance. We invite you to join us in this daily practice as we wrestle with where we go from here. There are many ways to approach prayer.  The prayers we offer are yours to use as you wish – as we say in yoga, your choice, your practice.  If you have a meaningful prayer to share, please send it to Debbie Houghton at debbie@fumc-a2.org.

You can find a new prayer each day through June 2 on the church’s Facebook page, as an email (please contact Adele Roy to receive it in email form), and on this page, below.

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Friday, May 10

Psalms can voice our prayers. Nan C. Merril offers this prayer of Psalm 27 in her book, Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness:

Love is my light and
my salvation,
whom shall I fear?
Love is the strength of
my life,
Of whom shall I be afraid?
When fears assail me,
rising up to accuse me,
Each one in turn shall be seen
in Love’s light…

Teach me to be love,
as You are Love;
Lead me through each fear;
Hold my hand as I walk through
valleys of illusion each day,
That I may know your Peace…

Call upon the Beloved,
be strong and trust
in the heart’s courage.
Trust in the power of Love;
the Beloved’s unconditional and
everlasting love for you.

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Saturday, May 11

Some of the songs we sing are prayers. Here is an African American spiritual we sing at Green Wood. If you’re not familiar with the tune, you can find it in Faith We Sing # 2208.

Guide my feet while I run this race (repeat 3 times)
For I don’t want to run this race in vain.

Hold my hand while I run this race (x3)
For I don’t want to run this race in vain.

Stand by me while I run this race (x3)
For I don’t want to run this race in vain.

I’m your child while I run this race (x3)
For I don’t want to run this race in vain.

Search my heart while I run this race (x3)
For I don’t want to run this race in vain.

Guide my feet while I run this race (x3)
For I don’t want to run this race in vain.

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Sunday, May 12
 
Try an “eyes-wide-open” prayer:
 
When you arrive at church on Sunday, pray for people you see seated in the pews around you. Pray for people who are hurried or bored, engaged or distant. Ask God to help them wrestle with their problems and to give each a sense of community and his love.
 

After church, if you find yourself at a stop light or waiting in line at the grocery store, take a moment to see and pray for other people around you. Pray for the people who are frustrated or distracted; pray for those who are laughing or peaceful. Give thanks for each person and give thanks that God hears your prayer.

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Monday, May 13

End of day prayer by John O’Donahue

We seldom notice how each day is a holy place where the Eucharist of the ordinary happens, transforming our broken fragments into an eternal continuity that keeps us. Somewhere in us a dignity presides that is more glorious than the smallness that fuels us with fear & force, a dignity that trusts the form a day takes. So at the end of this day we give thanks for being betrothed to the unknown and for the secret work through which the mind of the day & wisdom of the soul becomes one.

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Tuesday, May 14

Holy God –

Though there are shadows and worries,
You have placed your Word in us to be a lamp for our feet.
You have given your Spirit like a bright shining star.
You fill us with Your Love as glorious as the sun.
You place your Truth like a crescent moon.
Every darkness is overcome with Light.
And every Light contains shafts of your Eternal Light.

— Larry J. Peacock

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Wednesday, May 15

Breath Prayer is an ancient method of prayer that the desert mothers and fathers used. It is an easy way to calm yourself and learn to focus your mind. Breath prayer can happen anywhere, anytime.

Try this: Choose a phrase that can be expressed in two parts; for example, “breathe in light, breathe out love”. Other ideas for phrases are listed below. Breathe in, saying or thinking the first part of the phrase, breathe out with the second part of the phrase. Continue this for as long you wish, until you feel calmer, more peaceful, or until you have achieved an inner stillness.

Suggested Phrases (create your own!):

+ Jesus, mercy.

+ Holy wisdom, guide me.

+ Grace in, grace out.

+ Bring me strength, give me peace.

+ Abide in me, Holy One.

+ Move me, groove me.

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Thursday, May 16

A Celtic blessing prayer

Christ be with us
As we pick up burdens
And begin journeys we do not want to take.
Christ be with us
As we turn to you to calm racing hearts,
And to guide us forward.
Christ be with us
As we feel strength begin to rise in our souls.
Amen.

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Friday, May 17

Songs can be prayers. Let your soul be encouraged by the song “The Storm Is Passing Over,” by Donald Vails.

The text of this gospel song was written by Charles A. Tindley in 1905. The link below is to a video of a performance from the Detroit Mass Choir.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3jgPsGQSdQ

O courage, my soul, and let us carry on.
For the night is dark, and I am far from home.
Thanks be to GOD. The morning light appears.
The storm is passing over. The storm is passing over.
The storm is passing over, Halelujah…

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Saturday, May 18

Holy One,
We bring to You
our worry and unease,
We bring to You
Our prayers for those with whom we disagree,
We bring to You our prayers for wisdom and compassion,
We bring ourselves to You, that we might grow in generosity of spirit,
clarity of mind,
and warmth of affection.

— Iona Abbey Worship Book

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Sunday, May 19

When I behold the problems of our world, O Lord,
I pray not to be tempted to quick answers.
When every tongue declares a different truth,
when every people praises its own righteousness,
let me pause before I speak or praise or hope.
Let me look inward seeking to discover eternal truths implanted there by you,
truths greater than those heard in the outer multitude of voices and words.
And let me remember always that
to be loud is not to be right,
to be strange is not to be forbidden,
to be new is not to be frightful,
to be different is not to be ugly.
Thus let me find truths true to you,
that I might live with them, with you, and with myself in peace.

Adapted from a German prayer found in The Little Book of Prayers

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Monday, May 20

God of compassion and love, we offer you all our joys and celebrations, but also our suffering and pain. Give us renewed strength to bear our weakness, healing even when there is no cure, peace in the midst of turmoil and love to fill the spaces in our lives. Thanks be to God, the source from whom all love flows. Thanks be to Jesus, who embodies compassion for others. And thanks be to the Holy spirit, who brings light to the darkest places.

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Tuesday, May 21

O Holy Spirit of God, visit now this soul of mine, and stay within it until eventide.
Inspire all my thoughts.
Color all my imaginations.
Suggest all my decisions.
Lodge in the nooks and crannies of my life and order all my doings.
Be with me in my silence and my speech,
in my haste and in my leisure,
in company and solitude,
in the freshness of the morning and in the weariness of the evening;
and give me grace at all times to sense your mysterious companionship.

— Adapted from A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie

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Wednesday, May 22

From Listening for the Heartbeat of God, A Celtic Spirituality by J Philip Newell:

God before me, God behind me,
God above me, God beneath me.
I on your path, O God.
You, O God, on my way.
In the twisting of the road,
In the currents of the river,
Be with me by day.
Be with me by night and by night.

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Thursday, May 23

Generous God 

so many times I’ve come
with my empty cup
a beggar of the heart
devoid of nourishment
depleted of energy

and you have filled

Generous God
so many times I’ve come
afraid of unknowns
full of negatives and no’s
fighting the challenges
closed and resistant to growth

and you have opened

Generous God
so many times I’ve come
a stranger to my spirit
crammed with cultural noise
caught in endless clutter
crowding my inner space

and you have emptied

Generous God
I come to you again
holding out my waiting cup
begging that it first be emptied
of all that blocks the way
then ask for its filling
with love that tastes like you

— Joyce Rupp

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Friday, May 24

Here is another song that is a prayer.  The artist is Mary Gauthier who played at Green Wood on May 10. Listen to the song on youtube. The lyrics are below.

My father could use a little mercy now
The fruits of his labor fall and rot slowly on the ground
His work is almost over it won’t be long, he won’t be around
I love my father, he could use some mercy now

My brother could use a little mercy now
He’s a stranger to freedom, he’s shackled to his fear and his doubt
The pain that he lives in it’s almost more than living will allow
I love my brother, he could use some mercy now

My church and my country could use a little mercy now
As they sink into a poisoned pit it’s going to take forever to climb out
They carry the weight of the faithful who follow them down
I love my church and country, they could use some mercy now

Every living thing could use a little mercy now
Only the hand of grace can end the race towards another mushroom cloud
People in power, they’ll do anything to keep their crown
I love life and life itself could use some mercy now

Yeah, we all could use a little mercy now
I know we don’t deserve it but we need it anyhow
We hang in the balance dangle ‘tween hell and hallowed ground
And every single one of us could use some mercy now
Every single one of us could use some mercy now
Every single one of us could use some mercy now

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Saturday, May 25

Thank you for your presence
during the hard and mean days.
For then we have you to lean upon.

Thank you for your presence
during the bright and sunny days,
for then we can share that which we have
with those who have less.

And thank you for your presence
during the Holy Days, for then we are able
to celebrate you and our families
and our friends.

For those who have no voice,
we ask you to speak.

For those who feel unworthy,
we ask you to pour your love out
in waterfalls of tenderness.

For those who live in pain,
we ask you to bathe them
in the river of your healing.

For those who are lonely, we ask
you to keep them company.

For those who are depressed,
we ask you to shower upon them
the light of hope.

Dear Creator, You, the borderless
sea of substance, we ask you to give to all the
world that which we need most — Peace.

— Maya Angelou

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Sunday, May 26 (Memorial Sunday)

For Those Who Walked With Us

For those
who walked with us,
this is a prayer.

For those
who have gone ahead,
this is a blessing.

For those
who touched and tended us,
who lingered with us
while they lived,
this is a thanksgiving.

For those
who journey still with us
in the shadows of awareness,
in the crevices of memory,
in the landscape of our dreams,
this is a benediction.

— Jan Richardson

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Monday, May 27 (Memorial Day)

A Celtic Prayer of Remembrance

O God of life, on this day of remembrance,
O darken not to me Thy light.
O God of life, on this day of remembrance,
close not Thy gladness to my sight.
On this day, O Lord,
Keep Your people,
in the arms of Your embrace.
Shelter them under Your wings.
Be their light in darkness.
Be their hope in distress.
Be their calm in anxiety.
Be strength in their weakness.
Be their comfort in pain.
Be their song in the night.

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Tuesday, May 28

Dear God,
I am full of wishes,
full of desires,
full of expectations.
Some of them may be realized, many may not,
but in the midst of all my satisfactions and disappointments,
I hope in you.
I know that you will never leave me alone
and will fulfill your divine promises.
Even when it seems that things are not going my way,
I know that they are going your way
and that in the end your way is the best way for me.
O lord, strengthen my hope,
Especially when my many wishes are not fulfilled.
Let me never forget that your name is Love.
Amen.

— from “With Open Hands, “ by Henri J. M. Nouwen

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Wednesday, May 29

Lord, we don’t know what is going to happen to our church.
Please help us figure it out.

Guide us to become informed about the options, to listen attentively and respectfully to each other, and most of all, to hear your voice.

Lead us as we do our best to heed Jesus’s words and follow his example, loving all our brothers and sisters.

— Prayer offered by Helen Ryan

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Thursday, May 30

Threshold Blessing by Jan Richardson:

Here
at this beginning,
be there delight
or be there grief,
may grace come to greet you
and keep you company in the way you go.
Amen.

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Friday, May 31

Benediction by Rev. Dr. Gil Miller:

May God grant you courage to walk the paths of peace,
patience to outlast the troubles of the day
and love to erase the barriers and heal the deepest wound.

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Saturday, June 1

Howard Thurman was a black theologian who mentored Martin Luther King, Jr. during the era of the civil rights movement. Thurman reminds us of this reality in the history of spirituality:

It may twist and turn, fall back on itself and start again, stumble over an infinite series of hindering rocks, but at last the river must answer the call of the sea.

While pondering Thurman’s wisdom, we offer this prayer for uncertain times:

Holy One, we come to you with lots of suspense in our lives.  Help us give mindful and soulful attention to things that need tending, things we often take for granted.

We think of our church as a place of open doors, open hearts and open minds.  The United Methodist church is struggling. Our local church is wrestling. God, help our hearts not grow hard in the midst of different visions and disappointments.  Will others know we are Christian by our love? Help your churches, our churches not to grow hateful in the name of Love.

We like to think of our country as an example of freedom, a place of opportunity where hard work pays off.  Our country is struggling. God, help us balance what it means to be a world leader and a good neighbor.

We like to think of summer as a time to relax and recharge, but we find ourselves busy with lots of work left to do.  We find it hard to unplug.

God, help our minds not to grow numb with constant news and emails.  Help us slow down and find a space for rest and wholeness.

Thank you that we never walk alone.  Help us to sense your Presence, your Guidance, your Love now. Amen.

(Our UM Hymnal contains two of Howard Thurman’s prayers, #401, For Holiness of Heart, and #489, For God’s Gifts. Maybe you’d like to check those out as well!)

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Sunday, June 2

A Prayer Technique suggested by Parker Palmer, author, educator and activist, and found of the Center for Courage and Renewal:

Here is a prayer exercise to try.

Find a quiet spot. Let yourself relax. Take five or six deep breaths in through your nose, and release each one slowly through your mouth.

Now, imagine yourself in a vast open spacious field: a mountain top, a plain, a meadow, and a lake or ocean shore. See the space on all sides stretching into the distance.

Next, put the things you are worrying about: finances, work, family, various tasks, or responsibilities — whatever has you tied in knots, into that spaciousness. Once you have spread out your concerns at some distance from yourself, simply be there, breathing.

Imagine the Holy Spirit is moving among and penetrating the many tasks, people, and issues with a vibrant, pulsating energy you cannot see, but may sense. As you remain in peace, centered in Christ, the work of God goes forth into all your concerns through your faith, your consent, and your belief that God is more powerful and effective in your life and the world, than you could ever be.

Watch. Wait. Trust. If you become anxious, ask God to help your unbelief.

After taking time to be present to God’s activity in your life concerns, ask if there are any specific responses or actions you are to take. Allow God’s response to rise up from your center of peace, rather than your anxiety or fear.

Here in the field of your life the One who knows you better than you know yourself is always healing, creating, mending, and summoning.

Relax. It is not all up to you. You are not alone. You are not even in charge.

Thank you for being intentional in praying with us during this time.  We hope this daily series has enriched your prayer life and encourages you to continue praying in the days ahead.

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We leave you with this poem from Mary Oliver:

Praying

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

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And these thoughts by Frederick Buechner’s on prayer:

Everybody prays whether he thinks of it as praying or not.  The odd silence you fall into when something very beautiful is happening or something very good or very bad.  The ah-h-h-h! that sometimes floats up out of you as out of a Fourth of July crowd when the sky-rocket bursts over the water.  The stammer of pain at somebody else’s pain. The stammer of joy at somebody else’s joy. Whatever words or sounds you use for sighing with over your own life.  These are all prayers in their way. These are all spoken not just to yourself but to something even more familiar than yourself and even more strange than the world.

According to Jesus, by far the most important thing about praying is to keep at it.  The images he uses to explain this are all rather comic, as though he thought it was rather comic to have to explain it at all.  He says God is like a friend you go to borrow bread from at midnight. The friend tells you in effect to drop dead, but you go on knocking anyway until finally he gives you what you want so he can go back to bed again (Luke 11:5-8).  Or God is like a crooked judge who refuses to hear the case of a certain poor widow, presumably because he knows there’s nothing much in it for him. But she keeps on hounding him until finally he hears her case just to get her out of his hair (Luke 18:1-8).  Even a stinker, Jesus says, won’t give his own child a black eye when he asks for peanut butter and jelly, so how all the more will God when his children ask (Matthew 7:9-11)

Be importunate, Jesus says-not… because you have to beat a path to God’s door before he’ll open it, but because until you beat the path maybe there’s no way to getting to your door.

May our doors and our hearts and our minds always remain open to God and our neighbor.

Amen!