Jennifer writes…Caim Prayer – When You Don’t Know What to Pray

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Sometimes I want to pray for someone, but I don’t know what to pray.  When an ambulance passes me on the street I want to pray for the person they are rushing to help, but I don’t know the details.  The evening news often leaves me with a strong desire to pray for the world and for individuals living out stories of crisis and pain.  Occasionally, a friend or family member will pop into my head and I will feel a strong need to pray for that person, even though I have no idea what is happening to them right now.  Often in the Congregational Care office I see someone who is sad, or worried, or hurting.  I usually don’t know the story, but the need for prayer is written on their faces, and audible in their voices.

There is an ancient Celtic prayer that is perfect for those situations where you want to pray for someone, but you don’t know what specifically to ask.  It is called Caim, or encircling prayer.  To pray the Caim prayer, picture the person or persons in your mind who you want to encircle in prayer. Then, in your minds eye, draw a circle around that person. Then pray this prayer:

Circle (name or description of person), Lord.
Keep comfort near and discouragement far.
Keep peace within and turmoil out.

Circle (name), Lord.
Keep protection near and danger far.

Circle (name), Lord.
Keep hope within, keep despair without.

Circle (name), Lord.
Keep light near, and darkness afar.

Circle (name), Lord.
Keep peace within and anxiety without.

The eternal Father, Son and Holy Spirit
shield (name) on every side. Amen.

In this prayer you are asking God to surround this person, and for them to be aware of God’s presence and unending love and care. You can’t get much better than that.

Jennifer writes…The Holy Spirit…singing in my ear

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I’ve heard people talk about the Holy Spirit “whispering in their ear.”  I’m pretty sure the Spirit sings in mine – to comfort and guide, and to help me express joy or sorrow when no words seem to be enough.

 Music is so important to me.  I’m a child of the late 1960s and 1970s, and it seems like there is a soundtrack of songs and lyrics running through my head most of the time.  I grew up with the radio or the record player providing background for most of my waking hours and the sleeping ones, too. (Anyone else out there remember sleeping with those great big padded headphones on?)   I am still happier with music playing.  A lot of it is purely secular, but this is probably not the place to discuss my love of James Taylor, Van Morrison, and the Beatles. That would be a whole other blog!

 Hymns and praise music are also running through my brain.  The first music I can remember is my great-grandmother sitting at the piano, playing songs from the hymnal…How Great Thou Art, O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing, Jesus Loves Me.  Most of the scripture in my memory is there because there is a song attached to it.

 Sometimes a song just comes to me, and stays with me for the day or even longer. I believe the Holy Spirit uses these songs to speak to my heart about things I need to hear. This morning a very old hymn popped into my head and has continued to rise to the surface all day.  According to the United Methodist Hymnal, it was written in 1752:

 Be still my soul: the Lord is on your side.
 Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
 leave to your God to order and provide;
 in every change God faithful will remain.
 Be still my soul: your God will undertake
 to guide the future, as in ages past.
 Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
 all now mysterious shall be bright at last.

Have you tried using a hymnal or a praise songbook in your prayer time?  It doesn’t matter how well you sing.  To God, the sound of your praise is always beautiful. If you don’t want to sing at all, you can still read the lyrics – most hymns and praise songs are beautiful poetry.  Give the Holy Spirit a chance to sing in your ear!

If the Spirit has been singing in your ear, too, post a comment and let us know what you hear.  What songs make you feel the most joyful, prayerful, or comforted?

DEAP (Drop Everything And Pray)

Laurie Barnes posts 1 Comment »

When my step-kids were in high school, their school had a program called DEAR which stood for “Drop everything and read.”  Several time periods a week would be designated as DEAR times and the kids would be given twenty minutes or so to put down what they were working on and just read a book or magazine for enjoyment.  Hopefully the reading skills of the kids were enhanced by this program.  It may also have helped develop a love of reading for kids who may not have been avid readers before.


For the past year or so, I have felt God’s tugging on my heart to become a DEAP person – a person who will “Drop everything and pray.” I desire to respond quickly and prayerfully whenever someone asks me to pray for them or lifts up a situation that is of great joy or great concern to them.  I do this because I feel that God is calling me to do it but hopefully my prayer skills are being enhanced by this lesson in obedience.  It also may help people to know that the church takes very seriously its amazing responsibility to pray on behalf of the people of God’s world. 


I want you to hold me accountable on this.  If you raise a prayer issue to me and I don’t respond as a DEAP person, remind me of my commitment to “Drop everything and pray.”


– Pastor Laurie Barnes

Praying in Color

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What’s your prayer personality?  Are there activities that help you engage in prayer?

For a long time, I believed the only real way to pray was to have “quiet time.”  I was sure that real pray-ers went into a bare and silent room, far from any accessories and distractions, and engaged in long, silent conversation with God.  I am just not wired that way.  When I sit in the bare, quiet room, my mind goes in a hundred different directions.  I start praying, and the next thing I know I am making my grocery list in my head, or trying to remember the name of my third grade teacher.

 I am a kinesthetic learner, which means my brain is wired in a way that makes me more engaged when I am touching, holding, doing.  That includes prayer.  So, quiet, contemplative prayer is not for me.  Writing my prayers works well because when my hand is engaged, my brain and my heart seem to go along.  I often pray with beads, or with a simple wooden cross in my hand.  Touching these things helps me calm my spirit and listen to God speaking to my heart.  Sometimes I light candles, and often I knit a few rows on a prayer shawl while I pray.  These activities help slow me down and connect me to God’s presence. On a recent retreat, I had one of the best prayer times of my life as I sat next to a river and threw pebbles into the water as I prayed. “Lord, thank you for…” Splash. “God, help me with….” Splash. “Jesus, please heal…” Splash. When I paused to listen, the splashes and the action of tossing the pebbles helped keep my mind clear of clutter so I could hear God’s voice.



Recently, Pastor Laurie found a book that is perfect for pray-ers like me, Praying In Color, by Sybil MacBeth.  Ms. MacBeth explores a style of prayer that includes “doodling” with colored pens and paper.  The exercises in her book are opening up a whole new style of prayer to me, and showing me once again that there are many, many ways to engage in our relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

 What kind of learner are you?  If you are an auditory learner, then perhaps music or prayers spoken out loud are prayer tools you can explore.  Are you a visual learner?  Praying in Color might open up new possibilities in prayer for you, too, as might praying with icons or reading prayers and scripture.  Maybe you do your best praying when you walk, dance, stand, or all three!

 Isn’t the variety in God’s creation, and in God’s people, wonderful?  I invite you to explore your prayer personality, and let us know about prayer styles and tools that work for you here on the blog.

— Jennifer Creagar
Administrative Assistant for Prayer and Congregational Care

Appreciating the Written Word

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Recently I had the opportunity to spend time reading with grade school age children as part of Project Transformation at University UMC.  Some kids relished the half-hour time to read and couldn’t wait to turn the page of their book to discover what happened next.   Others squirmed and rolled their eyes and begged me to take a turn reading a page.  I came from that experience with a new appreciation for the blessing of the written word and for my parents and teachers that instilled a love of reading in me.  And I pray that Symphoni and Mary and Fong and Asia and Keith and all the rest of the kids come to a similar place of life-long appreciation for the written word.

I like to read at least three books at a time.  When I grow bored with one, I move seamlessly to the next.  The best prayer book that I am reading now is called The Beautiful Work of Learning to Pray by James C. Howell.  Short, meaty chapters.  Much to ponder. 

Consider the quote from Madeleine L’Engle: “Prayer is love and love is never wasted…” (p. 31 The Beautiful Work of Learning to Pray).  I am adding that definition of prayer to my ongoing list.  Do you have a definition of prayer you want to contribute to my list?

Pastor Laurie Barnes
Pastor of Prayer Ministry and Congregational Care
The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection

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