A Prayer for the New Year

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In worship this weekend at the Church of the Resurrection, we will hear the story about how Joseph and Mary went to the Temple in Jerusalem to present baby Jesus to the Lord. Similar to Christian infant baptism, it is a Jewish custom to offer a new baby in gratitude and thanksgiving to God, acknowledging that the baby is a gift from God and belongs to God while he or she is being cared for by the parents. This ritual can also be called dedication or consecration and means to “designate as holy.” This story of baby Jesus reminds me that all children are a gift from God, that we belong to God and that God cares deeply for each one of us.

Whether we have been baptized or not, the New Year is a wonderful time to re-dedicate ourselves as Christ’s servants, to give ourselves back to him, and to remind ourselves that we belong to him. There is a special prayer called a Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition that lends us beautiful language to pray our own prayer of dedication to God. Here is the prayer in language from the time of John Wesley:

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.

Some churches have a tradition of praying this prayer together just before the New Year. I think it is a prayer that can be prayed every day. It that often takes me to my knees. I also like to pray it sitting with my hands open on my lap. I keep a business size card of this prayer in my wallet, so that it is always nearby. It has the traditional language on one side and contemporary language on the other. Click here to see what the card looks like. You can purchase one for yourself at The Well bookstore.

Our contemporary worship leader, Lance Winkler, wrote a song with lyrics inspired by this prayer. Sometimes I find that praying to a melody helps the prayer sink into my heart faster. Click here and then click on Covenant Song to hear this beautiful prayer of worship and dedication.

–Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer

Prayers for a heart-breaking time

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In the wake of shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary  our hearts are broken and we find ourselves at a loss of words.  It is hard to know how to pray, or what to ask God for . In times like these, I find hope comfort in returning to the words that God provides for us in Scripture.

In Romans 26-27, Paul tells us that, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”  It gives me great consolation to know that the Holy Spirit is praying in me and through me at times like these.

As we continue to struggle with senseless violence, we can also turn to Scripture to find strength in God’s presence. Psalm 46 is the Psalm that gave birth to Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God.”   It describes the care and protection that God promises to provide in times of great turmoil. It goes like this:

 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. 
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns. 
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts. 
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Come, behold the works of the Lord;
 see what desolations he has brought on the earth. 
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
   he burns the shields with fire. 
‘Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
 I am exalted in the earth.’ The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Please pray with me:

Gentle, Compassionate, Loving God,

Hear the cries of your joyless, sorrowful people.

Our prayers go out to the families of Newtown and

Sandy Hook Elementary School who have experienced incomprehensible loss.  We come to you now with heavy hearts and in deep sorrow.

We pause to remember the twenty-six lives taken by a gunman in Newtown, CT, eighteen of whom are school children, we lift them up to you Lord.  Let us pray for the families who grieve.  Let us also pray for those who have been traumatized by the events that have unfolded at this school — teachers, children, parents, neighbors, the community.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

May we be still for a moment and know that God is with us, even in this most horrible of moments.

Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer



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