Rector’s Note: The Prayer of Care -6.8.23
During our Charting our Course forums after Easter, when we discussed the gifts that God has placed in our community, the Charism of Caring Connection was among the top three. At the time, we described it in this way: “The Charism of Caring Connection … is marked by social justice, partnerships, service, outreach, healing, listening, ‘looking for good trouble and reaching out in love’, empathy, community and individual support, speaking out for others, comfort, support, solidarity.” (You can read more about the whole process in my Rector’s Note from 3.16.23).
Another place that I see Caring Connecting woven throughout the community of St. Peter’s is in the intensity of our prayer for one another and for our community and world, and in the ways that prayer is lived out in direct, loving action.
Long before I joined the church, I had a spiritual director who was an Episcopalian. She described the faith tradition to me as one that “prayed what it believed.” If you look at the Book of Common Prayer, she said, you can learn all about what we believe by reading what we pray. Eventually, I would look in the book, and pray those prayers, and find them resonating with my own beliefs. It would be a bridge to my own joining, as well as to my priesthood.
I’ve also found that praying for our beliefs goes far beyond our prayer book, and our formal liturgies and collects. At St. Peter’s strong belief in care for one another lands fully in our prayer. Our Wednesday Eucharist in particular is focused on healing, and the petition time is dedicated to naming everyone on our ongoing prayer list, which is much more extensive than the intentions included in our Prayers of the People on Sunday. On it are our concerns for individuals in our parish community and our wider community and the world. We pray for local churches and clergy. We name all those who have died in the past year and those who grieve for them. We pray for those affected by global disasters and injustice. We express thanksgiving for prayers answered. At the end of the service we offer anointing with blessed healing oil. Often participants receive anointing on behalf of others whom they are holding in their hearts. It is a very beautiful and powerful hour of prayer that is open to all.
Even if you can’t make it to the Wednesday service, you can make the intentions on the ongoing prayer list part of your personal prayer time during the week. The list is included each week in our online newsletter and can also be found here. And you can add names to the list by emailing or calling Charlese at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whether it is happening in liturgy or in the privacy of our own hearts, it is clear to me how deeply our community prays what it believes.
Then there is the prayer that is articulated with no words at all, in the deeply caring acts that mark this community. I see it in the meal trains that are arranged for people recovering from long illnesses, the willingness of parishioners to stay with one another when they are ill, to provide transportation to those who cannot drive, to make check-in calls, to pay personal visits. Sue Gordon’s card ministry is an expression of this. So are our Listening Circles, which make sacred space for sharing and receiving people’s stories.
If you want to know if prayer works and how it works, I believe that this is one of the chief ways it happens. We open our caring intention to a God who can send our love to the places where God knows it is most needed, on the wings of God’s own love. And we open our lives to the love and grace of God, who answers prayer through us. We pray what we believe. And we live what we pray. And one thing that I believe fully is that our acts of love and care are essential to the way that God answers prayer.