Saturday, January 10, 2009

Get Ready! Background and Invitation

This site comes from several influences. My brothers and sisters of the Peace and Restorative Justice Community of the Church of the Holy Trinity wanted to do something to mark the inauguration of Barack Obama, the first African American U.S. President. They also wanted to remind him of issues about which they were concerned and about which he had made campaign promises. People had many good ideas. For better or worse, the idea of a blog, which would solicit and post prayers from anyone, anywhere, for Barack Obama's First Hundred Days as President of the United States, was mine.

One P&RJ Community member, the Rev. K. Jeanne Person, who is also one of our parish priests, is editing a book of women's prayers on the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, Lifting Women's Voices: Prayers to Change the World. Last summer, she suggested we write prayers for the MDG goals, in solidarity with the Anglican Bishops' MDG march at Lambeth. We each wrote prayers, which we read aloud and posted in the church as Stations. Thus, I began writing prayers, which became, for me, a new way to write and a new way to pray.

I am in discernment as a lay Anglican Franciscan. The daily work that is most important in the life of any religious, of any faith, is prayer. I have been exploring various ways to pray throughout the course of the day, while at the same time living a secular life. There are myriad types and traditions of prayer--meditation, contemplation, praise, thanksgiving, adoration, repetitive prayer or chanting, mindfulness, moving meditation (T'ai Chi Chuen), and the recitation of set prayers and readings at fixed times of day (saying the Divine Offices). I took up jogging six months ago, which has also changed my prayer life. Running offers me opportunities for extraordinarily focused prayer. Prayer expresses our longing for a relationship with God. It is our search for God and God's search for us.

Intercession is the kind of prayer many of us learned as children--"God bless mom and dad and the cat, and please let it snow tomorrow...." Although I've explored various forms of prayer over the last thirty years, I am a novice at intercession (and I am not even a novice yet, as a Franciscan). An old meditator, I am still, frankly, uncomfortable with the notion of asking God for things, although Biblical encouragements to ask abound.

Some people think of intercession much as they did when they were children, as a to-do list for God. But what if intercessions aren't God's to-do lists, but ours--things that, somehow, we might manifest, together with God? Certainly, there are many things we cannot change--natural disasters or loved ones' illnesses and deaths. Intercession is a way of being with God with things that are important to us, and of forming clear intentions around those things. But some things that seem impossible for us to change might be possible if we could find the will, such as ending world hunger. In prayer, the divine spirit can give us the extraordinary will to do extraordinary things. Intercession can thus be a dialogue that includes listening to God. ("Please fix this." "Why don't you fix it? You know what needs doing.") When people pray intercessions together, the prayers also become a dialogue with one another about what is meaningful to us and what our hopes are.

This site, then, is also about hope, not pie-in-the-sky hope, but the kind of hope that motivates us to get things done that ordinarily we wouldn't or couldn't do. And, of course, it is both prayer and offering to God to help us, and our new President, build a better, saner, more compassionate country and world, for everyone and all of creation. I wish all of you peace and All Good and invite you to pray President Obama's First One Hundred Days with me.

(I would like to post prayers you submit on each day of Obama's First Hundred Days. My next post, on Wednesday, will include more information, but please begin to think about which concerns you would like us all to pray during those Days.)

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