I’m often challenged by what I hear people saying to themselves. Whether it’s my own negative self talk or those around me, I’m reminded that God might have other ideas about how we should treat God’s people—including ourselves! The Bible reminds us of God’s love when it says, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,” (John 3:16) or “God’s faithful love lasts forever!” (Psalm 136:16).
God tells us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves—which means we have to love ourselves first. Sometimes I find myself in need of a tangible sense of God’s love for encouragement in the journey. I need prompting to move from negative speech to positive expressions of love not only for others, but for myself too. I have found a prayer shawl to be an effective means of focusing my attention on the love God has for me when I might be struggling to feel it myself.
I first learned about prayer shawls when I read Paths to Prayer by Patricia D. Brown. She has directions on how to make a traditional prayer shawl, as well as possible prayers to go along with it. You can make a shawl by choosing its components carefully, as Brown suggests, or choose something you already have that you love. When you wrap yourself in your shawl, feel God’s arms surrounding you like a hug filled with the love of a parent, sibling or friend. Maybe you cover your head like Susannah Wesley did, in order to have a moment of respite from the busyness of life, a moment of quiet between yourself and God. Perhaps wear it during times of worship, celebration or lament as a reminder that you are not alone; God’s presence is always with you. Take the opportunity to speak kind and gentle words to yourself about God’s love for you, words of forgiveness and encouragement, whatever is happening in your journey. Try praying something like this prayer I found online: “O Loving One, renew me this day in your love. Grant me life as a gift of your faithfulness; Grant me hope to sustain me. May this shawl be for me a sign of your loving, healing presence. May it warm me when I am weary; may it surround me with encouragement when I am discouraged. May it assure me of your care and comfort, when my loved ones and I are in pain. May it remind me that You love me and that I am surrounded by the prayers of others.” (http://www.vinjechurch.com/cms-uploads/help%20others_21_663393903.pdf)
You can find information about the Prayer Shawl Ministry at The Church of the Resurrection at http://www.cor.org/fileadmin/users/prayer/Knitting_devotions1.pdf. This includes patterns for knitting your own prayer shawl as well as prayers to use with prayer shawls.
–Kelly Hansen, Resurrection Prayer Ministry