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During Lent through Easter Day, Union Presbyterian Seminary is pleased to share one of these treasured prayers, every Sunday and Wednesday, curated from Sib Towner's new book of prayers, "Prayers that Sing & Stir the Heart". We are reposting them on our website. We hope these prayers sing to your own heart and stir longing inside of your soul as you journey along this season of reflection and contemplation.
O God, we don't know exactly of whom the prophet was speaking when he described one who was wounded for our transgressions and by whose stripes we are healed. But you gave that suffering servant to us as a model by which to measure our lives forever after.And when we see a corpsman run out onto the battlefield to rescue a wounded soldier, or a nurse bringing the gentle touch to a ward of AIDS victims, or a parent going through rehabilitation right along with a troubled child, or Jesus hanging on a cross—we know that your servant has been there. AMEN.(See Isaiah 52:13—53:12)
W. Sibley Towner, Prayers that Sing & Stir the Heart, p. 68a
O God, for the moments of ecstasy in which we perceive your goodness and your justice, we thank you:in the creek outside the house, where the whiteness of your lovely swans cleanses the mildew off our imagination;in the nursery, when the tender touch of the parents on the little baby's face and body reopens the springs of our compassion;when the heartfelt understanding of a foreign friend once again breaks down the dividing walls of hostility between us.We had heard of imagination and compassion and understanding with the hearing of the ear, O God. Now we thank you for bringing them before us face to face.In Jesus' name, we pray. AMEN.(See Job 42:1-6)
W. Sibley Towner, Prayers that Sing & Stir the Heart, p. 64
O God, this world needed a few good women, and you gave us lots and lots of them. You gave us strong, brave women like Judith and Deborah and Eleanor Roosevelt. You gave us daring women like Esther and Mary Magdalene and Hildegard of Bingen and Rosa Parks. You gave us beautiful, passionate women like Susanna and the Shulamite and Juliet and Eloise. You gave us wise women, to follow the ways of Dame Wisdom herself. You gave us warm, nurturing women like the wonderful lady who rings out the Book of Proverbs, and many another mother and grandma, as well.
We thank you, God, for women in all their colors and personalities and enthusiasms and excellences—for your great cloud of female witnesses.In the name of He who loved Mary and Martha and the other Mary, and whose life was enriched by theirs. AMEN.(See the Book of Esther)
W. Sibley Towner, Prayers that Sing & Stir the Heart, p. 62
You saved the day for us, O God, when you elected to enter our history in the person of a child. In him, you gave us your face. Without him, we might have thought of you as just a big old scary wizard in the sky—frowning and shouting, playing magic tricks on history, and throwing lightning bolts and cancers on people you didn't approve of. We might have thought of you as Oz the Terrible.But you saved the day when you showed us your face. We are deeply moved to see that yours is a face as innocent as ours was in infancy. We are shocked to see your face surmounted with a crown of thorns. We are glad to see your face radiant with a smile of love.When we saw you at last in Jesus, we somehow sensed that, even though everyone else in the whole world will forget one day who we ever were, you will remember and be glad. AMEN.(See Luke 2:16)
W. Sibley Towner, Prayers that Sing & Stir the Heart, p. 50
O God, you made us fearfully and wonderfully well and gave us the most remarkable organ in all the animal kingdom: the human brain. But we remain what you made us even so—creatures of the earth—and to the dust of the earth we shall return.
You gave us the capacity to see great distances with the mind's eye—to dream dreams. Yet you also placed us within a world of orders that we must obey. And one of those orders is that we must die. It's not your fault, O God, and we're not mad at you. We wear out, like every other creature.O Loving God, help us to live fully and richly while we live; to enjoy our work and our loves; to savor the sunshine, relish the rain, and learn to whistle the songs of the meadowlark and "Godspell." Help us to join you in your work of creation. And when the day comes that we cease to exist as living organisms, enroll us, we pray, in the ministry of your kingdom. And let it be lively, Lord. Let it be lively!In Jesus' name, we pray. AMEN.(See Ecclesiastes 3:16-22)
W. Sibley Towner, Prayers that Sing & Stir the Heart, p. 45
O God, Good Creator, with the basic ingredients of the earth—a pint of light, a dash of darkness, a peck of clay, and some mist—you fashioned the willow tree and the gray squirrel, the hippopotamus and the earth creature Adam. You made the earth creature in your own image, and from it you derived beautiful man and strong woman. When you were through, you saw the meaning of it all and you pronounced it good.
We thank you that you have placed within us your image as creator, and that it abides in our hearts to this very day. We pray for the wit and the courage never to stifle it, but to shine it back to you, our creator, with works of our own creativity—beautifully built and cared-for churches, lovely flower beds, poetic words, diatonic scales, and well-designed curricula.It is our prayer to you, O God, that in this way—the way of artisans and writers, singers and preachers—we, too may come to know the true shape and worth of things. AMEN.(See Genesis 1:26 and 2:7)
W. Sibley Towner, Prayers that Sing & Stir the Heart, p. 39
O God, you imagined your whole creation—right down to the serpent and the sweetgum tree, the lion and the lamb, the cucumber and the apple. Then you created it all with your warm words of love. Above all, you lovingly made us and put in us your very image—lips that can speak your words, minds that can learn your will, and bodies that can do it.And we can do it, God. Once, we were children and were dependent and lacking wisdom. But you have entrusted to us adult responsibilities now: the safety of the lion and the lamb and the sweet apple trees, the condition of the topsoil and the purity of the water, the integrity of human relationships, the formation of the outlooks of children, and the honor and care of the aged.And, O God, you have given us rules, as well, about how to get on with your great work—rules of truth and fair play, reason and honor, trust in your power and in our powers, and, above all, love.O God, keep our love for you as warm as yours is for us, that our imaginations and our brains can glorify you. AMEN.(See Genesis 1:26)
W. Sibley Towner, Prayers that Sing & Stir the Heart, p. 36
We might have preferred only Gospel, O Lord, but you gave us law, by which we might give shape to our amorphous freedom.We might have preferred only Grace, O Lord, but you gave us justice, as well, so that we might never delude ourselves.We might have preferred only Love, O Lord, and indeed love lies in the very arms of all you give us.Thank you, O God. AMEN.
W. Sibley Towner, Prayers that Sing & Stir the Heart, p. 27b
O God, we marvel sometimes as we look over our spiritual genealogies to see how it happens that we believe in you. There are the recognizable figures, to be sure — the giants of the faith: Abraham, who came within a second of cutting the slender thread that tied him to us, his sons and daughters; and Moses, our lawgiver; and Ruth, the righteous gentile; and Mary. And there are those special figures, too — those skeletons in the spiritual closet: the men and women with strange lights in their eyes. Some of them saw you face to face, O God, or saw your chariot flash by. Some had tongues of fire dancing on their heads. Some preferred to die rather than to spit on a single title of your law. Some went out into the desert to build there a little model of the city of God.We don't know what part each of the visionaries and martyrs and saints may have played in shaping our faith. But we thank you for all of them, and thank you that our faith is rich, not bland — and that it throbs with holy energy. AMEN.(See Genesis 12)
W. Sibley Towner, Prayers that Sing & Stir the Heart, p. 16.