Prayers are important. Every day I find occasions that call for prayer. Whether for individuals suffering illness, for challenging life situations, for discernment or encouragement or some other life event, prayers are a significant way I engage my world. I suspect the same is true for you.
Years ago while serving in Minnesota as a parish priest I began a practice I have continued to this day. In that congregation we had a very long prayer list and while we prayed each Sunday for the list of those seeking prayer, I wanted a way to signify to the congregation that we held these individuals in prayer each day and, in a sense, all the time. What I came up with was the practice of maintaining a spiral bound notebook of prayer requests that remained on the altar throughout the week. It was a visible symbol of our prayers for the people on our hearts and minds.
Today in the chapel of the diocesan office at the Bishop’s Close we maintain such a spiral bound notebook of prayer requests that remains on the altar at all times. A few individuals have been on that list for a long time and other names come and go as staff or others add new concerns to the list or remove someone from the list. It is for me an outward and visible sign of the love we share in Christ.
As Lent begins I do hope that you have prayer practices that enrich your life and that of your community. This is a good time to renew practices that have grown old or been left behind in the rush of life and to begin other practices of prayer that can sustain us through the challenges we face.
As Lent begins I would leave you with one of my favorite prayers from the beginning of the Ash Wednesday liturgy: “Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”