Prayer shapes believing. That is part of the thinking behind the Prayers-of-the-People and the rich collection of collects in our prayer book. As the church’s beliefs direct our prayers, we are formed in our concerns and led to the right actions in response. I am also learning that believing shapes our prayers. I am grateful for the zoom groups I have been a part of during the pandemic and am in awe about how they have influenced my prayer life in this strange time. I hope others have found similar inspiration in focused faith studies.
The Sacred Ground groups have led to deep dives into unlearning racism and its hold on our common life; my prayers have often led me to lament, confess to my deepest hopes for my beloved community. I pray more seriously about those in prison, those whose lives have been challenged by systems of injustice, those whose aspirations have been denied, those who cannot see any hope for change. I enter the stories of those on the margins, the outcasts who are loved by God and who need relationships of wholeness, the wounded ones. My intersessions have grown. I have rejoiced in the wisdom of Howard Thurman and the prayers of his heart.
A group study in Advent led me to consider the comments made by a retired bishop. As he made weekly visits to a parish to confirm the faithful, he was immersed in baptismal promises. And so I began to pray again the promises adding the new commitment from the Anglican Church of Canada. In 2013 the church added a new promise to its liturgy: Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation and respect, sustain and renew the face of the earth? I will, with God’s help.
Anne and Jeffery Rowthorn have written a new collection of praise and prayer for creation in the book God’s Good Earth. He was my liturgics professor at seminary, and so, when I saw this selection at the Cathedral bookstore, I picked it up as a liturgical resource, not knowing that each of the 52 chapters would lead me into a new form of weekly prayer. I aspire to be more aware of my new baptismal promise and its reality in how I am faithful to its challenge. I am paying more attention to the theological implication of kinship with creation. My prayer life is changing thanks to a zoom group studying Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si. I was asked to bring a prayer to close our first session, and I found in the Rowthorn book a prayer by an Aboriginal priest in the Canadian church. I can enter the prayer space of writers I have long admired, Wendell Berry, Bill McKibben, the Iona community. My prayers have changed; my spiritual life is enlarged. In the past, I neglected the challenges of the cries of creation; I took its blessings for granted and forgot to realize that I am being encouraged to new action.
In other years I followed a Celtic Prayer Book for my daily office; for a time, I used Richard Wagamese’s book Embers. I now join a daily office zoom community as it follows the lectionary, and I add my petitions to those of others. I rest in the faith we are holding onto together.
Prayer shapes believing. The rich selections in our own Book of Common Prayer join New Zealand and Canada’s prayer books on my shelf to enlarge my prayer life. The church’s prayers form me, and the prayers of others are reforming me. Prayer is a way I live my faith. I am held in its widening embrace. I am continuing to learn, to be zoomed beyond my small world, to allow my beliefs to shape my prayers.
Dr. Rev. Linda Privitera