Photographs by Lynn Donovan
Not every prayer is formal or religious. Many are not. Bestselling author Anne Lamott wrote Help, Thanks, Wow as a reminder that, yep, a prayer can be as simple as one word.
When it comes to asking for guidance, there isn’t a formula. We can show gratitude in as many ways as there are moments in the day. And there’s no wrong way.
We can pray together.
We can pray alone.
It doesn’t even have to be out loud.
Dance might be our prayer.
Or our gentle steps upon this Earth.
“I see you,” is a prayer of recognition.
“I love you” is better.
Sometimes our thoughtful actions are another’s answered prayer.
What is prayer but faith that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves?
We asked a handful of religious and spiritual leaders across Greensboro to offer their prayers for our community and the world at large as a way of calling in a bit of hope at the end of this emotionally turbulent year.
We add our prayers to theirs. We figured we could use as many as we could get.
A Prayer for Oneness
By Son Pham
All living beings are my parents
All living beings are my siblings
All living beings are suffering
I fervently generate indestructible love and compassion
By the blessing of immeasurable love
By the force of awareness of unmistaken truth
Of all previous great holy beings
May all living beings be free from the dangers of illness
Grasping hands in a circle of friendship
Seeing the wisdom of benefit to self and others
By the perfections of generosity, morality and patience
May all living beings be free from the dangers of illness
This disease, as well as all future wars, famine, and crises
Shall not arise to be named
From the smallest plant to every creature on this planet
May all be victorious over unwanted harm.
**This prayer, an essence of a prayer composed by Buddhist monk Demo Rinpoche, is offered daily at the Thousand Buddha Temple.
Before prayer, a breathing meditation is practiced to clear the mind of distracting thoughts. And for the prayer to be effective, says Son Pham, we must make a strong connection to the people we are praying for. Imagine all living beings are your parents, in this lifetime and our uncountable past lives. Then awaken your mind by focusing on what is happening around you, and who and what you are praying for. Understanding the sufferings of all people on this planet makes it possible to generate pure love and compassion for everyone, not just the people we like or love.
Son Pham is the principal teacher and founder of Thousand Buddha Temple in Greensboro. A lifelong Buddhist, Pham offers private consultations for professionals seeking stress management through meditation and Buddhist principles. www.chuanganphat.org
By Daphine Locklear Yellowbird Strickland & Ray Silva
We come to You in reverence and with grateful hearts.
We ask for Your blessings upon our community and communities throughout Mother Earth.
We are in a time of trouble.
Disease has spread throughout our land and is bringing sickness and death to our families, our friends and our neighbors.
We have failed to care for Mother Earth and now she is raging with fires, storms and a pandemic throughout all nations. She is weeping for our grandmothers, our children, our sisters and brothers.
Help us to cease from polluting and poisoning her and to work as one to restore her harmony.
There is much bitterness and divisiveness within our communities.
Teach us to not listen to the two-hearted, the destroyers of minds, the haters and self-made leaders — those who lust for wealth and power and lead us into confusion and darkness.
Remind us to seek out visions of world beauty and nonviolence within our community and throughout Mother Earth.
Remind us all of our roots, our heritages and the wisdom bestowed upon us by our ancestors, for they will never misguide or mislead us.
We ask that You bless and keep us safe and healthy, full of joy and good will toward all living beings.
Lead us to be: Visionaries, for “where there is no vision, there is no hope”; Trailblazers, for “if not us, who?”; Wisdom keepers to preserve and keep our many histories, cultures and traditions alive; Leaders to give direction to those who follow; and faith to reach the possible when it seems impossible.
For these things we offer our gratitude and praise to You.
**This prayer includes words of wisdom from the late Ruth L. Revels, who was an enrolled member of the Lumbee tribe.
Daphine Locklear Yellowbird Strickland is an enrolled member of the Lumbee tribe and is part Tuscarora. Ray Silva is an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe. They co-created this blessing on behalf of the Guilford County Native American Association. www.facebook.com/guilfordnativepowwow2020
Calling My Heart
By Linda Beatrice Brown
Prayer in Winter
There is some mystery calling my heart,
Some angel dust, some lustrous wings.
Oh Holy One, oh beautiful and fierce lover of souls,
Mother, I need Your incandescent voice.
I need Your blanket of moonlight, Your star that never leaves us, never weakens.
The road is full of pits and shadows. I stumble often.
Light up my path or I am lost.
Oh Mother, do You know how the darkness threatens and cajoles us?
We have removed ourselves from ourselves.
No wonder we cry. No wonder we kill.
Mother, I need Your bird song, Your voice,
Your waterfall of love,
Your gold bright music.
Come to my heart that is Yours always.
I hold out my hand.
Please take it.
Listen, the ocean waves are breathing in you,
Waves caroling my name.
I am the heartbeat of the planet.
When you call I am the breeze on your neck.
Listen, fasten your sandals and take my hand.
We go to drink the source of life, the eternal Spring.
Understand, your heart will be made whole.
Do not be deceived.
I live within the darkness.
I am waiting to visit my blinding radiance upon you.
All things in their time.
Do not despair, but know me.
Those who know me know the heart of love.
I hold out my hand.
Please take it.
(This is the winter version of “A Prayer for Human Healing in Our Time,” also by Linda Beatrice Brown)
Linda Beatrice Brown has written a number of novels, poems, plays, short stories and essays. Currently on the faculty at The School at Space for Conscious Living, she’s been a member of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church for over 25 years.
A Prayer for Hope
By Greg Farrand
Gracious God, Infinite Mystery, Divine Source,
As we step tentatively and inevitably into the unknown of this New Year, we are in desperate need of hope. The atmosphere, the very air we breathe, is charged with fear, anger, mistrust and cynicism.
Without intervention, without intention, the gravitational pull of these dark impulses drag us into a swirling state of anxiety and reactivity.
We begin to believe that real change is impossible.
We metabolize the delusion that we are separate and on our own, like cosmic orphans in a hostile universe.
It looks like darkness will win and, Beloved One, we are in
need of hope.
Not the sugary hope that plugs its ears and shuts its eyes. We need the gritty, raw, dirt-under-the-fingernails kind of hope that lifts our chins and rekindles our inner fire.
Give us a spacious hope that reminds us, again and again, that love and light always wins. Always.
Give us an active hope that reveals the power of our small acts of kindness and compassion — small acts that ripple out like waves that touch countless lives. These small acts flow together to
heal the world.
Give us a connected hope that heals the delusion that we are alone and isolated.
An abundant hope that knows resources are not scarce. There is enough food to feed everyone. Enough clothes to cover everyone. Enough homes to house everyone. We don’t need more resources, O God, we need Your hope to stir creative compassion.
And with this hope, we brush away the dust of cynicism and constricted living and step into this new, unknown year with anticipation and gratitude for all that will evolve and unfold.
Rev. Greg Farrand is the co-director of Second Breath Center, a center that offers life transforming spiritual practices rooted in the Christian wisdom tradition. www.secondbreathcenter.com.
A New Year’s Blessing
By Kim Priddy
Help us to begin this year
and to remember
that carried us here.
Ready our hearts
to engage the world,
for there are dreams
to be realized.
Prepare our souls
for exciting possibilities,
for there are new terrains
Strengthen our minds
to resist the darkness,
for there is light
to be played in.
we are here,
at the threshold
of what has been
and what is to come.
that we might enter
into a new year
filled with assurance and resolution.
And may it be so . . . Amen.
Rev. Kim Priddy is the pastor of Sedgefield Presbyterian Church in Greensboro. Her ministerial experiences have been shaped through her work with many of the most vulnerable in her
A Prayer to the Loving Creator
By Daran Mitchell
Amidst the wild shadows that cover and hover over the evening of our deepest fears, we pause to return to You our humble thanks. With hearts overflowing with joy and an eye single to Your never-failing love, we offer to You our sincere petitions.
Loving Creator, our journeys to this precipice have been marked with much sorrow and grief. The restiveness of this year has taken its toll upon the human circle. We wince as we witness the unraveling of life as we have known and lived it. The strain of toil has caused our spirits to wilt as we gather the shards of what started out to be a promising year. We lay before You our pain and bear before You our deepest anguish. From the harshness and restlessness of life, filled with hectic haste and selfish strife, we come to You to learn good will and to be warmed by Your presence.
Eternal Spirit, we confess afresh that we are not sure what lies beyond the bluffs of this blistering and blazing precipice. Our souls are buffeted with nagging queries not yet answered; with distressing cries that have seemingly gone unheard. We long for the peace that is Yours to give and ours to receive. Grant, we pray, ears and eyes to behold the life that is beyond this summit of uncertainty. Give hope to our anxious strivings and a gentle pace to balance the frantic search for what we have sought to call a new normal. We stand waiting and watching as You speak through the chill of winter and the promise and dawn of yet a new year.
In your Name,
Daran H. Mitchell is the senior minister of Trinity African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Greensboro. He is an adjunct professor of pastoral theology at Hood Theological Seminary in Salisbury and an adjunct professor of religion at Greensboro College. www.facebook.com/trinityameziongreensboro
A Conversation with God
By Marilyn Wolf
I’ve come to You so many times, asking for guidance, answers or forgiveness.
This time I’m asking for peace. And to be honest, I’m not even sure what that means. But I’m pretty sure what peace is not. Peace isn’t being trouble-free. It’s not having things go my way or getting what I want. Peace is not a goal, an achievement or a prize. It is not something I can make happen no matter how hard I pray or meditate.
These days, I hear lots of pithy sayings about peace. It’s every step you take. It’s the space between the breaths. It’s our true essence. I kind of get all that on one level, but actually, if someone asked me to explain how peace is the space between the breaths, I’d have to make something up and hope I sounded smart.
In church, I’ve heard “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding.” So, I guess it’s OK that I don’t understand it. Maybe peace isn’t something we can get with our minds. Is it possible that it’s really just a state of being? Being OK no matter what’s going on around me, like a boat with a deep rudder that can ride out the storm? But if I have to wait until the storms pass to be at peace, then I could be waiting a long time. And at this stage in my life, I don’t have that kind of time.
Now, here’s a thought: Maybe peace is giving up trying to figure out what peace is, to quit pursuing it, and to stop feeling bad about myself because I’m not as peaceful as I think I ought to be. In other words, being OK no matter what. Being peaceful even when I’m not peaceful? Now, that is definitely a peace that surpasses all understanding.
Thank you, God. I like it. And for now, I think I’m OK.
Marilyn Wolf, M.Ed. is a retired psychotherapist who offers guidance for spiritual and personal growth through her practice. She is also an Enneagram teacher, certified energy work practitioner and founding director of The School at Space for Conscious Living. www.spaceforconsciousliving.com.
A Prayer for All Beings, Everywhere
By Fred Guttman
Our God and God of our ancestors,
God of all human beings and God of all animals and plants,
We ask You to bless all human beings, wherever they may dwell.
May it be God’s will to comfort those who are ill and in distress.
May it be God’s will to deliver them speedily from the darkness to the light.
Bless all Your children, in every land, nation and community.
Unite us all in understanding.
Unite us all in mutual helpfulness.
Unite us all with the spirit of community.
Oh God, hasten the day, please. Bimhayrah veyamanu — soon and speedily.
Hasten the day when we, all of us as Your children, God, can rejoice in a world where our bodies and souls are healed; a world of health and peace!
Fred Guttman has been a rabbi since 1979 and lived in Israel for 13 years. He has served as the rabbi of Temple Emanuel in Greensboro since 1995 and plans to retire this summer. www.tegreensboro.org/meet-our-staff
A Prayer for Peace
By Julie Peeples
Can we talk?
This long year, 2020, has just been too much! Too much distancing, too much Zoom, too much loss, too much change and way too much partisan rhetoric and hate speech.
Yet somehow in the midst of it all, there has been no quarantine on Your love, no distance between us and Your grace. We have glimpsed Your presence in the life-giving, unexpected gifts of sidewalk-chalk flowers, fresh-baked cookies dropped off on the porch, smiles detectable even above a mask. We’ve caught the essence of Your love in compassionate medical workers, dedicated teachers and patient parents. We’ve witnessed Your creative beauty in the musicians, artists and poets whose talents have lifted our flagging spirits.
Call to us now — whisper Your peace to us in the chilly winter wind, in the distant sunrise, in the bare beauty of the trees. Infect us with Your peace that passes all understanding. Make peace the new pandemic for which there is no cure. Peace with justice, peace with renewed commitment to the common good. Make this peace-virus so hard to resist that more and more of us will be eager to come down with it and share it with others. Give us courage to be determined advocates for the rights and dignity of all people, so that all may live in peace.
Thank You, Gracious Spirit, for carrying us through this tumultuous year, and assuring us that no matter what 2021 brings, we will see it through together.
Julie Peeples has been the senior minister of Congregational United Church of Christ since 1991. She is an advocate for equality and justice issues, particularly for LGBTQ and immigrant rights. congregationalucc.com