Twelve Prayers for People Who Don’t Pray

PREFACE   “Our Father for Unbelievers,”

“Our Father, if you exist, I dare to turn to you.
If you exist, your name is holy — hallowed be thy name!
If you exist, your kingdom is order — a splendid order: thy kingdom come. *
If you exist, your will is the law of the universe and the law of human hearts: thy will be done in us and in everything, on earth as in heaven.
If you exist, give us today our daily bread — the bread of truth, the bread of wisdom, the bread of joy, and the super substantial bread promised to those who are able to recognize its meaning.
If you exist, I owe you an immense debt — forgive me my debts as I willingly forgive those indebted to me.
In the future, lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil.”
From A.-D. Sertillanges, Catéchisme des Incroyants (Paris: Flammarion, 1930), p. 6.

(1) Daylight Savings Time

As the goldenrods and asters disappear
and dusk descends so quickly,
remind me of the age of the planet
and the length of its days.
Disturb my sleep with the awe or seasonality
and then name my season to me.
Ancient of Days, I know I am small.
I am so grateful that I get
to watch a few seasons change.

(2)  For my Animal Self

As a horse gallops or a cat circles to play, let there be something natural in me. Let me not forget I too am an animal. Tempt me not with notions of my centrality to the universe as either my two legs or me. And when all is said and done, give me my next life, if one there be, as a frog or something with less pretence than most humans have. Amen

(3) My Resume

When my final resume is written, let it say s/he was kind to the poor and knew them well, that s/he had people around her closely of all types and colors, and that s/he knew life was too short to be white or to live in just one time zone. Let modesty manage the rest. Amen

(4) Ending Well

How did all the pieces of my life and this time come together? Was it fate or chance, effort and intention or some unique combination of each and all, plus dumb luck? Do I need more direction now or less? Have I really been open to history? Does what I say and what I wear fit together or am I a cheap imitation of a conglomerate?  Do I have integrity?   If not, find a can opener and use it on me. Amen

For a few moments at breakfast today, let me be less haunted by the unsent and the undone.  Add my unfinished to eternity’s own incompleteness.  Amen. (With thanks to May Sarton’s book “On Solitude.”)

(5) Vocabulary words

Remove the word destiny from my vocabulary and insert the word dream. Tie a string to my head and have it tame my tall posture and my forward looking. Give me the gift of long looking forwards and backwards and stop letting me imagine someone other than me is in charge.  Amen

(6) Sunday, Sunday: For All My Days, a thanks.

For Sunday mornings and the big fat newspapers, for no where to go and time to eat, for the possibility of brunch and an afternoon nap, for song in worship and seeing the same people I see every week and noticing them for a change, for a new thought, a lively step, a little sunshine, even if it rains, I pray.  Let me learn a form of Sabbath, even if it happens on Tuesdays.  Amen.

(7) Let me love Just one place

Hear my thanks for that expansive place I love and live, and the way it loves me.  There I have a sense of being pulled beyond here to there, where I see an even wider horizon. There my keys work, my hand touches the door for my goings out and my comings in, from this day forward, even forevermore.  The views may not be awe-inspiring like those of the Pyrenees or the Florida Keys. Nor am I overshadowed or pulled out of life or made to feel small. If I don’t have a place this special to me, give me a street corner or an alley, a backyard or a cul de sac.  Find me a place and let me learn to love it.  Amen.

(8) On Heaven

Some say that the only way to get into heaven is to have a letter of recommendation from the poor.  That strikes me as a lousy self-serving reason to care for the poor!  Get me better reasons, O God, and before it is all over, make sure my life mattered to someone else.  Amen.

Teach us to attend the poor and the failed as much as we bother with the rich and successful.  Let us say something nice to somebody who you think doesn’t need any help. Amen.

(9) For Something Big

Let me find something grand and worthy and put my name on it, like a pipe organ or an endowment of light paperbacks to a heavy library or a garden of daffodils or a stone labyrinth. Let me last somehow. Find me something big to really care about and let me spend my days caring about it.  Amen.

(10) Preparing to Die

When I die let the work that I’ve done speak for me.  Let the friends I’ve loved speak for me.  Make sure my best dress is laid out for my final days, and let me go out not with a whimper or a whine but with a winsome interest in what if anything is next.  Give me a sense of progress towards my grave – and a little less for my career, that great careener.  Amen

(11)  Turn me from someone who won’t be good at growing old into someone who will excel at it.  Let the price of my pension be appropriately important, and no more, and allow my whole life’s legacy to gain in my view.   Let my habits be those of a person who wants to look good, feel good, and live long.  Along the way amuse me and let me be amusing.  Grant that I may seek less to enchant than to be enchanted, less to astonish than to be astonished.  Open the cell of my self-consciousness.   Amen

(12) What I should Have Said

I remember all those things I said I would do before dying, O God, and I mourn the loss of who I used to be and maybe never was.  I mourn having to mourn my old self.  I put on my little red cape, start on the path, and face the wolf.  Give me lots of good rehearsals for dying; and on opening night, give some power to my performance.   Let me know you abide, even if I do not. Amen

By The Reverend Dr. Donna Schaper


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