I've been tapped to write a prayer for an upcoming special service, and I'm rather freaked out about it.
I'm not a prayer. Rather, I'm not a pray-er. I don't pray. Growing up Catholic under the guidance of a converted-from-Buddhism parent who more enthusiastic than precise, I never got the knack of extemporaneous praying. All our prayers were contained in the handy-dandy little prayerbook Fr. Whatsisname had given to us upon First Communion. I can Hail Mary and Act of Contrition with the best of them, but that's recitation at worst and meditation at best. I personally gave up praying when I realized that I was either asking for shit, or thanking God for shit in ways that had absolutely nothing to do with admiration. As Shug Avery says, "More than anything God love admiration. ... I think it pisses God off when you walk by the color purple in a field and don't notice it."
Recently, while on an educational trip with some classmates from seminary, I was asked to pray before we set out on our journey one morning. No way, I said. We had a very very wild driver, and the last thing I wanted to do was be the one who said the prayer that didn't bless us properly enough to get us home in one piece. Not that that's how prayer works, but that was in my head. I don't believe in voodoo, either, but I'll be respectful to the voodoo mistress, lest I wake up turned into a bat or something some morning. Probably the closest I've gotten to actually worded prayer was the other day when we came out of the mall to find that one of our tires had gone flat. We got the car all jacked up and the spare was ready, but the tire would not come off the car. I made a small appeal to the tire-changing kami, but you know, there are a million million kami, and it's quite possible I got my divinity wires crossed and sent my appeal to the wrong one, maybe the "I want to walk around in Wal-Mart for four hours" kami. Which is what we ended up doing.
Anyway, I've been asked to take part in this service and to write a prayer based on a passage in Acts. I take the business of prayer very seriously and am trying to create something authentic. I'm grasping the concept that there is a structure to a good prayer, some imagery and careful choice of words, much like poetry or headline writing. Doing a Google search on "how to write a prayer" has been of NO help ("You just talk to God, that's a prayer." Yes, well, I know, but public prayer is equal parts theater and theology. It's the theater part that's got me stymied.). This being my first, I haven't gotten the knack yet, and I'm borrowing, splicing and crafting together pieces of prayers that I like, and hopefully it'll turn out.
By the way, I just read The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan, the best book I've read in ages. Coming from a Dust Bowl state, I've always been really interested in Dust Bowl history but could never find a good book about it. Most of the books I've ever been able to find are children's books, and why IS that? I'd like to make this assigned reading to anyone who thinks that human-caused climate change is a hoax. Which, ironically, are a lot of people who live in Dust Bowl areas.