Prayers for Pastors

What We’ve Lost

Merciful God,

In the long arc of history,
the ever-flowing stream of time,
fifteen months seems brief,
and we give thanks that our mistakes
and any breakdown in our communications
with you
will seem small and passing in the end.

But we are not at the end,
or even that place where the river meets the sea.

We are midstream,
unable to catch all the grief flowing by.

How can we hold a space
for overdue tears
for deep honoring
for tender remembrance
that won’t feel hurried or belated,
inadequate to the need?

Help us, Great Comforter,
not to deny or ignore
but to heal and strengthen
all your people.


Prayers for Pastors, Reflectionary, The People Pray

Far above

To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!

Psalm 123:1

We turn our eyes to you, O God.

You are far above the human fray:
the conflicting reports,
the baseless accusations,
the stressful conversations.

You see far beyond our daily worries,
yet stay intimately connected to us.

We place it all before you,
trusting that you care for us,
all of us,
without exception.

Give us the tools we need to serve you in the coming weeks,
caring for all people with love,
holding out the possibility of justice,
living as representatives of your grace and mercy.

We pray in Christ’s name.


As always, you are welcome to share the prayer the image, or use them in worship.

If I Were Preaching, Reflectionary

Practice What You Preach

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.”

Matthew 23:1-3

We’re living in complex and, for many of us, distressing times. Writing from the U.S., it’s impossible to think about this week’s lectionary texts without also thinking about our oncoming Election Day. Running through my head as I write this are stories of voter intimidation, an invitation to a workshop about de-escalating potential violence at the polls, and fears over what will result from the swearing in of a new Supreme Court justice.

How will we preach toward the election? For some of us, it might feel easy. We know our congregations and the way people feel about the state of the world and their hopes for what is to come. For some of us, it may feel impossible. Nothing we say will not be misinterpreted by someone. 

Yet somehow we must offer the needed word God calls us to speak.

I’m struck by Jesus, pulling no punches: Do what the religious leaders teach you, he says, “but do not as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.” It’s a power analysis that applies to our current situation. Jesus does not critique the law; he calls out the authorities. We, too, see people in power who do not live by the rules they would apply to everyone else, who place burdens on ordinary people they would not carry themselves. Jesus calls on us to live by the principles of our faith. The epistle points in the same direction. Writing to the Thessalonians, Paul is “urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God.” (1 Thessalonians 2:12)

Practice what you preach. And this week, preach what you practice.

It’s said that every preacher has only one sermon, or two or three, representing the motivating core ideas of their faith. What lies at the core for you? I propose you call on those themes and ideas in this Sunday’s sermon. Be clear with yourself first about the elements of faith in Jesus Christ that animate you and will be so familiar to your congregation to be unsurprising. Lay them out in your sermon, and make note that these ideas are nothing new, coming from you. “You’ve heard me say this so many times. This is my deepest belief, my central understanding of who God calls us to be.” I’m not usually inclined to draw from texts outside the current week’s, but this is a good time to call up the familiar, whether it’s the Great Commandment from last week or some other passage with particular meaning for you that the congregation will remember having heard from your mouth. “Jesus says this, and Paul says it this way, and you know how many times I have stressed it in this particular way.” 

Last week, my seminary, Andover Newton, offered some opportunities webinars for alums as part of Yale Divinity School’s Convocation. One of my favorite professors, Dr. Gregory Mobley, gave a talk called “Embracing the Prophetic Moment.” He reminded us that “Prophetic work is not just the work of people who get famous.” 

It’s my work, and it’s yours. Speak to the people you serve in words they will know have come from your heart. I will be praying for you.