Reflectionary

Book Review: We Pray With Her

During the 2016 presidential campaign, a group of United Methodist clergywomen offered support to candidate Hillary Clinton, a fellow Methodist, by writing devotions and prayers to encourage her. We Pray With Her: Encouragement For All Women Who Lead (Abingdon, 2018) draws on the writing of seventy women. I am delighted that their work has been gathered into this book. 

The section sections focus on Call, Struggle, Courage, Resistance, and Persistence. The devotions interrogate our assumptions about scripture (Is it possible, as Rev. Elizabeth Quick writes, that Mary wasn’t at home on the day Martha complained about needing her help in the kitchen?) and bring the voices of famous women into the conversation, from Sor Juana to Audre Lorde to Jen Hatmaker. 

And their own voices are a gift, as they write frankly about challenges they have faced as leaders and women. 

What no one tells you about leadership is that things will change and with some change comes struggle. I was utterly unprepared when my professional and personal lives began to orbit on different planes.

Rev. Dr. Theresa S. Thames

The writers are defined as young, by which the publisher means under the age of 40, and the topics skew toward that age range. The prayers speak to particular situations in the lives of women, such as leaving a baby at daycare for the first time, or in a time of relationship difficulty, or when a parent is ill. Some prayers, though, speak to all ages of women in leadership. 

A Prayer at the Time of Burnout

God of mercy, I confess I feel like I am bereft of sinew, a bag of dry bones, and my spirit in ashes. I have tried to take it all on myself. I have failed to seek sustenance. Give me courage to seek help. Help me find a moment of Sabbath today, breathe into me and revive these bones. Help me trust that you will walk with me through this land. Amen. 

Rev. Sarah Karber

This book would make a wonderful Christmas gift, for women who lead in their work, and those who aspire to lead, whether they work in ministry or some other field. My only complaint is I would have loved a full list of the writers to be included. 

I received two copies of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. I am delighted to have a copy to give away. Please leave a comment to be entered into a random drawing. 

Prayers for Pastors

Storm Surge (a prayer for pastors)

In the eye of a hurricane there is quiet, for just a moment, a yellow sky.”
(Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Hurricane” in “Hamilton: An American Musical”)

Holy One,
Storms surge beyond human-made barriers.

Waves break beyond their bounds,
and winds blow heavily,
destroying homes and taking lives.

We pray for the injured,
the homeless, and the bereaved.
Have mercy, Lord.

Storms surge due to human action.

Words break beyond old norms,
and arguments spin out,
distressing minds disturbing peace.

We pray for our leaders,
the reasonable, and the reckless.
Have mercy, Lord.

Storms surge in human hearts.

Wounds break open again,
and memories burn,
tears are shed,
or worse, held back.

We pray for ourselves,
our hearts, and our spirits.
Have mercy, Lord.

Amen.

matthew-100916

Prayers for Pastors

This wide world (a prayer for pastors)

Dear Jesus, 

"I am the bread of life."
“I am the bread of life.”

Growing up we remembered 

that night you were betrayed 
quarterly, in the sanctuary.
We passed the trays of cubed bread
the tiny, heavy glasses of juice,
available only to the baptized
which meant not the children.
I remember my hand pushed away
by a friend who knew better,
trying to keep me out of trouble. 
“Do this in remembrance of me.”
 
Once a year we remembered
all around the wide world
the other people who shared
bread and the fruit of the vine,
who shared in you in other lands,
in other languages,
but we never talked about
the mystery of real presence
or learned about -substantiation,
trans or con.
 
“Do this in remembrance of me.”
 
I saw the faces, gathered ’round
in my imagination, garbed like dolls
in my ‘round-the-world collection.
You were everywhere, Lord, 
known and loved everywhere;
I understood as a child.
I grew up thinking of you as that man 
who told wonderful stories, 
who loved his friends, 
who faced the authorities with courage, 
sort of a Super Rabbi Hero Friend. 
 
“Do this in remembrance of me.”
 
Later I remember the Lord’s Supper, 
your supper, 
by the faces of my friends, 
my teachers, my mother, 
the choir, our minister, 
in a candlelit church hall 
on Maundy Thursday, 
seated around long tables, 
luminous as we passed the bread and cup. 
 
“Do this in remembrance of me.”
 
I try now, Lord, to know you better,
to love your people, all people,
respecting differences, 
learning from them,
no doubt smug when I mean
to be humble. This wide world
in a child’s dreaming
has a service every hour
with little cubes of bread
and cups of juice.
 
“Do this in remembrance of me.”
 
I confess, I understand
why some finish the bread
and drink all the wine; 
your real and consecrated presence
deserve nothing less.
But I also confess,
in me is a child who 
remembers the story of 
baskets of leftovers,
abundance unending. 
 
“Do this is remembrance of me.”
 
I hope for the day
when we all can gather
secure in your love,
Bread of Life,
Cup of Blessing,
beautiful in the light
you shine on us,
your people, all people,
one Lord, one table,
for the whole wide world.
 
Amen.