Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Prayer in Action

A few weeks ago Carol spoke with students at the Episcopal Campus Ministry at the University of Arizona. They were headed to a weekend retreat on the theme Prayer in Action and asked her to speak to them about the theme. Here are her notes from beforehand...

This morning I fed our chickens. Eight full grown hens. It was my first time to get to feed and water them at our new place since they moved over from our friend’s house yesterday. I loved it. And I smiled the whole time. Watching them crowd the gate when I brought their feed inside the coop. I even smiled as I carried over a bucket of water. They are beautiful creatures. A couple are Rhode Island Reds, most of the others are, and there’s one black and white speckled one.

After feeding the chickens, I walked over to St. Andrew’s Episcopal church. I go there on Thursday mornings to volunteer in the kitchen. They make hundreds of meals a week that go to folks too sick to cook for themselves. This morning I chopped carrots and celery and washed a giant stack of pots and pans.

Why am I telling you about chickens and carrots and dishes? Because within these very mundane things are examples of prayer in action.

In the Book of Common Prayer there are written prayers of the people. One of the lines from form V says, “For a blessing upon all human labor, and for the right use of the riches of creation, that the world may be freed from poverty, famine, and disaster, we pray to you, O Lord.”

For the right use of the riches of creation…
The chickens are helping reclaim the soil beneath their coop. Their nutrient rich poop, their scratching and pecking will renew the dirt that for years was under an inch of asphalt. We actually tore up the asphalt this week. It came up in huge hunks of black tar.
By getting rid of that section of asphalt we’ll help in a very small way to liberate the earth and to live in right relationship with it. The temperature will be lower in the backyard because that tar won’t be there to absorb the sun. It won’t solve global warming in and of itself. But it is a step we can take.
We pray to you, O Lord.

That the world may be freed from poverty, famine, and disaster…
The chickens, or “the girls” as our housemate Emrys calls them are helping us produce some of our own food. We are also growing some squash, and are getting basins ready to plant some tomatoes and peppers and watermelon, and corn and well, we have a long list. By using permaculture techniques we hope to grow a lot of our own food. This will cut down on our collective use of fossil fuels to transport food to us, and hopefully one day we will grow enough that we can share some of the vegetables with our neighbors who may not have enough to eat.
We pray to you, O Lord.

For the poor, the persecuted, the sick, and all who suffer; for refugees, prisoners, and all who are in danger; that they may be relieved and protected…
At St. Andrew’s kitchen meals are made every weekday for people who have HIV-AIDS and have become too weak to cook for themselves. The deacon there is a chef and directs the volunteers preparing and packaging things like smothered steak, chicken enchiladas, tamale pie, brownies, and meatloaf and mashed potatoes. More volunteers come earlier every morning to pick up a map and bags of food to take to people all over the city. Some of the clients who are sick have lost the support of family and friends or they spend any extra money they have on medications and have nothing left for food. The volunteers who bring the meals may be one of the only people they see each week.

In the chopping of carrots, the washing of dishes,
We pray to you, O Lord.

The word Liturgy actually means, “the work of the people.” Without us there is no worship. Without we the people, the prayers have no life. Verna Dozier, who was a lay woman in the Episcopal church and wrote and taught a lot about what it means to be the church, said some good stuff about all this. In her book, The Dream of God, Verna warns us that we shouldn’t get so distracted by doing church, that we loose site of being church. She challenges us to not just worship Jesus, but to follow Jesus. This is true prayer in action. She writes:

“Worship is setting Jesus on a pedestal, distancing him, enshrining (enshrouding) him in liturgies, stained glass windows, biblical translations, medallions, pilgrimages to places where he walked—the whole nine yards. Following him is doing what he did, weeping over a situation that was so far removed from the dream of God and spending his life to make it different. Following is discipleship.”

Following Jesus is putting feet and hands and tears and callouses and ears to our prayers.

It does not mean giving up worship or prayer. Following Jesus just means embodying our worship and prayers when we leave the pews or pillows or couches.

The baptismal covenant is a great guide to what it means to put prayer into action. Every time we who follow in the way of Jesus head out the doors of a church or service we are going out into the world to live into this covenant. Many churches place a bowl of water near the entrance/exit. Next time you leave a service and see water. Try touching it. Remember the covenant. Pray that with God’s help, you will live into it.

and then we read them together...
Will you continue in the ….

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