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Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

IMG_0287No matter what our age, music can nurture our faith in a wonderful way.  Here is a collection of music and prayers drawn from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal. It’s aimed at young children and those who love them. I heartily commend it, and here’s why:

The selections are arranged in an order that takes one through the day, from greeting God in the morning to bedtime prayer.  They can be used in many settings, including worship.  The Doxology medley stands out.

Different cultures are represented, along with a variety of musical styles, rhythms, and instruments.  Have you ever heard “For the Beauty of the Earth” played on banjo?  You will here!

Children and adults sing and make music together.  I loved hearing voices of all ages.  The singers sound natural, and the sound quality is excellent.

Spoken rhymes and instrumental selections add to the collection’s appeal and usefulness.  You can get out your shaky eggs and other rhythm instruments and play along, and you can give glory to God through dance.

I look forward to using Glory to God: Hymns and Songs for Children and Families as I make music with children of all ages.  Ideas for pastors, educators, musicians, and families are posted online at the PCUSA Store.  I plan to use it in our congregation’s Music for Little Friends program.

You can order CDs at the PCUSA Store, and you can also download the collection from iTunes, where the artist is listed as Nassau Presbyterian Church.

Many thanks to the Nassau Church and to all the musicians, to the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, and to the hymnal committee. Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal is a great gift to the church, and resources like Hymns and Songs for Children and Families make it an even greater blessing.

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Jesus, I Belong to You

Here is a link to a collection of prayerful music by a British group called Dean, Lee & Mills.  Number 8, “I Belong to You,” is my prayer for the day.

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Child's First Book of PrayersA Child’s First Book of Prayers by Lois Rock and illustrated by Alison Jay, is a collection of 150 prayers that is a rich resource for people of all ages.  It includes classics, such as “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” and the prayer of St. Francis, “Lord, Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace.”  It also includes original prayers by Lois Rock that touch me deeply.  Here is an example:

“Lord Jesus, who died upon the cross:

You know this world’s suffering,

You know this world’s sorrowing,

You know this world’s dying.

In your name, Lord Jesus, who rose again:

I will work for this world’s healing,

I will work for this world’s rejoicing,

I will work for this world’s living.”

Many of the prayers in this book could be used liturgically with little, if any, adaptation.

Here is another of my favorites:

“God does not neglect the poor

and neither will I;

God does not ignore their suffering

and neither will I;

God does not turn away from them

and neither will I;

God answers them when they call for help

and so will I.”

I commend this beautiful, thoughtfully illustrated book to you.

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It’s all about Jesus. Listen as Fernando Ortega prayerfully sings the spiritual “Give Me Jesus,” inviting us to prayer.

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Farming is such a noble and essential calling, serving the wellbeing of the planet and its inhabitants.  It is often painful to be a farmer these days.  You can steward the land and water well, take good care of God’s creatures, and, with God’s help, produce abundantly–and still be in danger of going under because prices are so low.  Many factors contribute to the struggle.  Whether it’s debt, or problems finding dependable labor, or pressure from neighbors who don’t understand what farming is all about, or something else, farming is tough.

I came across the National Catholic Rural Life Conference website, and I discovered this prayer and more there:

Prayer for Farm Families in Crisis

O God, they call it “farm crisis!”

Our costs are up and prices for our produce down.

The loan is due and there’s no money to buy this year’s

seed.

We feel alone, embarrassed in our need, like failures in our

efforts to farm.

The harder we work, the worse it seems to get.

There’s no laughter or joy anymore, just a constant

struggle to believe, to hope and to keep trying.

Strengthen us, God.

Keep us gentle and yet firm, generous yet open to receive.

Let us see your face in those who want to help and don’t

know how.

Grant us perseverance and openness to your will.

Hold our family close as we do our best to know and act

according to your will in the days ahead.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Please remember to pray for our farmers!

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All Nature Prays

Cover of "Grandad's Prayers of the Earth&...

Cover of Grandad's Prayers of the Earth

Another beautiful book for God’s children of all ages is Grandad’s Prayers of the Earth, by Douglas Wood, illustrated by P.J. Lynch.

“When I was little, my Grandad was my best friend,” the narrator begins.  “Grandad and I liked to go for walks in the woods together.  We didn’t walk very far.  Or very fast.  Or very straight.  While we walked, I would ask him questions about things I wasn’t sure of.”

On one of those walks, the boy asks about prayer, and the conversation unfolds in this book.  In the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, Grandad explains what nature teaches us about prayer.  Trees, for example, pray as they reach for heaven, and rocks are still and silent before God.  Waters pray sometimes by silent reflection and sometimes by flowing and even leaping into the air.  All creatures pray, Grandad says, and people pray in many ways.  Watching the sunrise and saying hello to a new day is an ancient prayer.  Holding hands around a table and giving thanks is one of the greatest prayers that people pray, he adds.  The boy wonders whether our prayers are answered.  Grandad’s answer is wise and full of grace.

There are more walks after that one, until the day when the grandson must cope with Grandad’s death.  “I prayed and prayed and prayed until I couldn’t pray anymore,” says the boy.  Indeed, he is unable to pray for a very long time.  Now a teenager, at the end of the book, the grandson takes another walk in the woods where nature teaches him Grandad’s lessons again.

This moving book is a great resource for helping people think and talk about prayer, along with the themes of love and grief.  I have read this book to groups of adults, who were deeply touched and began sharing their own struggles with prayer.

Sensitive illustrations in autumn tones allow the reader to watch as the boy grows up.   They put us in touch with an amazing creation.  In this book “all nature sings,” as the old hymn says.  And I think Grandad is right: all nature prays, too.

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So many people have spoken to me about prayer as if prayer is something you have to get right: right words, right subjects, right structure, right timing, right frequency.  Recently when I was describing to a colleague the struggle to speak French, and the grace with which my efforts were received in France, she noted that God receives our attempts to pray in the same generous, loving way. 

I remember my daughter’s early efforts at talking and the joy they brought us.  She was so obviously trying to imitate us.  Once, when she was about a year old, my mother brought Laura downstairs after having given her a bath.  I said, “Hi, clean girl!”  Laura said it right back to me, minus the consonants but with the same intonation and enthusiasm.  Talking was not something she had to “get right” or else we would frown on her.

How much more does God welcome God’s children when our hearts reach back to him, sometimes with words, sometimes without!  “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words”  (Romans 8:26).

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