Praying for Your City

greetings from sarasota flThe good folks at The Center for Action & Contemplation and Mile High Ministries in Denver, Colorado, have written a beautiful prayer adapted from Walter Brueggemann’s Prayers for a Privileged People. It’s hoped it will inspire Christians to pray for their local communities.

As per their invitation, it’s been adapted for my local community, Sarasota FL. Please feel free to adapt it for your own.  

The prayer may be read in a group with one voice reading the regular print and all voices reading the bold print or it may be prayed alone. After the prayer, please pause for silence.

May the movement of the Holy Spirit through these sacred words and silence birth in us a fresh movement of compassionate action. How fitting as we honor those who have worked for freedom, equality, and justice, including Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and our Jesus.
– Lisa <><

Loving God, you have set us in families and clans, in cities and neighborhoods.
Our common life began in a garden, but our destiny lies in the city.

You have placed us in Sarasota. This is our home.
Your creativity is on display here through the work of human hearts and hands.

We pray for Sarasota today—for the East Side, West Side, North, and South.
For Riverwood, Siesta Key, Pinecraft, Newtown, Palmer Ranch, and The Meadows.
We pray for our poorest neighbors and for powerful people in offices downtown. We pray for people from the ’hood and the barrio,
for seasonal “snowbirds,” college students, and the new urbanites.

We pray for Sarasota’s neighbors:
Bradenton, Osprey, Nokomis, Lakewood Ranch, Venice, Myakka, and others.
And for sister cities in Scotland, Mexico, France, Israel, Russia, China, and Switzerland —and a thousand other cities connected to our own.

In all our neighborhoods this day there will be crime and callous moneymaking;
there will be powerful people unable or unwilling to see the vulnerable who are their neighbors.
There will also be beautiful acts of compassion and creativity in all these places—forgiveness and generosity; neighbors working together for a more just community.

Help us see this place as something other than a battleground between us and them, where our imaginations are limited by win/lose propositions and endless rivalry.
Show us a deeper reality, God: Show us your playground, and invite us to play.

Like the city of your dreams, make this a city where those who were once poor enjoy the fruits of their labor;
A place where children are no longer doomed to misfortune, but play safely in the streets under the watchful eyes of caring, healthy adults;

A place where former rivals and natural enemies work and play together in peace;
And where all people enjoy communion with you.
We pray in the name of the one who wept over the city, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Time of silence

Adapted from Beyond Our Efforts: A Celebration of Denver Peacemaking (Mile High Ministries: 2019), 251; and Walter Brueggemann, “This City . . . of God,” Prayers for a Privileged People (Abingdon Press: 2010), 157.

Designing a Prayer Walk Guide

walk-shoes-walking-feet-grey-gravel-1-1024x534We want to make a difference in our communities. We’re honored for the chance to join Jesus in his saving work. Yet, it’s so easy to try to do it in our own strength. Or worse, to turn a good thing, a great thing, into something toxic.

How can we best approach our serving from the right head place and heart place? Humble, yet excellent and empowered. We can:

  • study demographics and research solutions
  • plan and train well
  • ask great questions, tuning in to the wisdom and hopes of experts and those being served
  • study scripture and pray, tuning in to the wisdom and promptings of God

Praying throughout the process is essential, including a concentrated time of prayer close to the beginning of the event. For this concentrated time, consider a prayer walk- literally walking through the spaces in which the event will be held. As you walk consider those who will serve, those who will be served, and the hopes for outcomes. Claim the promises of God in scripture and call on the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

Click this link for the Day of Hope Prayer Walk 2015
This prayer walk guide was written for a large back to school event at Trinity United Methodist Church Sarasota entitled Day of Hope. The guide includes scriptures, prompts for each space being used in the event, and a list of event partners. We walked the campus, using the prayer guide as part of the volunteer training. Each person walked in silence, at their own pace, using the prayer guide in their own way. It’s my hope that this guide will inspire you to create one for your next initiative. – Lisa <><

PS: Speaking of Day of Hope, our event was part of a much larger initiative by an organization called Hope Kids Community. Their vision is to partner every school in Sarasota county with a congregation- a simple, grass roots, faith based effort addressing the needs of local families. This movement was founded by Pam Hawn, a gifted, humble, faithful follower of Jesus Christ. The 2015 event served over 2000 students, bringing together congregations, businesses, professionals, school personnel and countless volunteers.

We were honored to serve 100 of those students and their families this year. At the event, each student received gift cards for clothing and shoes, backpacks, school supplies, books, hygiene items, medical screenings, dental screenings, vision screenings, back to school photos, family portraits, child ID kits, food for several meals, haircuts, and of course lots of love and prayer. We will continue to build relationships with our families throughout the year.

Click here for a video of photos from our event.

Ash Wednesday Prayer Experience: Station 1

Walking the Labyrinth. photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

Ash Wednesday Prayer Experience
Station 1: Repent and Release

The Setting
A large room with low lighting. In the middle of the room is a canvas prayer labyrinth. Prayer labyrinths help people to take a spiritual journey. They have been around for a thousand years. The theme for this walk is confession and forgiveness.

One of our preschool classes, holding their rocks with both hands, walked carefully in a line like little ducklings between their teachers. (or should I say little lambs between their shepherds) photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

The Experience
1. As participants enter the room, they are invited to sign in.

2. They read Rend Your Hearts, a Blessing for Ash Wednesday by Jan L. Richardson.

3. They receive ashes applied to their forehead in the shape of a cross. The host speaks the words, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. Repent and believe the Gospel,” as the ashes are applied.

4. The participants remove their shoes.

5. The participants read the following: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23 NRSV). If we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NRSV) Take a rock to symbolize the weight of guilt that we hold when we carry sin in our lives. As you walk through the labyrinth towards the center, walk with Christ and use that time to ask for forgiveness for these sins. When you reach the center, leave your rock there and know that when you release your burdens to the Lord, you can walk away free and without shame. In Christ, God has forgiven you and taken the load you bear.

6. The participants choose a rock from a basket of rocks and walk/pray the prayer labyrinth as instructed, walking to the center and following the same path back out.

7. The participants put their shoes back on and move to the next prayer station.

A toddler making her way straight across the paths to the center of the labyrinth Once there, she layed down on her tummy to look at the rocks. She then picked up a few to bring them back to us, delighted in accomplishing the task. Back and forth she went. She reminded me that “as far as the east is from the west, so far God removes our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12) photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

My Experience
Watching persons walk the labyrinth can be as moving an experience as walking it yourself. Much of Ash Wednesday, I had the joy of welcoming persons and explaining the meaning of this type of spiritual journey. Here’s just a few of the stories.

A small group leader said her rock felt lighter and lighter as she approached the center of the labyrinth.

A mom who came earlier in the day later brought back her whole family and a few of the neighborhood children. She walked the path again, this time carrying her infant son. Her husband carried him on the way back out of the labyrinth. The children stopped and prayed with each other when they reached the center, a sacred circle of siblings and friends.

A 93 year young seasoned saint who smiled and giggled. “I finished the whole thing.” So many of us are inspired by her faithfulness, grace, and enthusiasm for all that is Godly. She reminded me of the joy found in staying the course and finishing well with Christ. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

An elderly gentleman who confessed, “I tend to wander from the path.” He said this experience was the most profound Ash Wednesday experience he had ever had.

A three year old shuffling his feet quickly along the path who would now and then leap the purple divider between paths like an Olympic long jumper. He finished several journeys while his family completed their one journey. Each time he finished he would come over to me and shout, “I win!” His words rang with the victory over sin and death we find in Jesus. (Consider 1 Corinthians 15:54-57, 1 John 5:3-4 or Zephaniah 3:17)

A group of tweens speed-walking the path, their steps reflecting the lightning pace of their lives. One stopped and said, “I’ve messed up.” Her friend said, “Come with me, I’ll help you.” photo by Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia

In the quiet of the afternoon, I had a chance to walk the labyrinth myself. Each time I walk one, the experience is different. During my walk, I was joined by a frail women who had just come from a cancer treatment. As we made our way, her struggle was evident. This could be her last Lenten journey. It could be mine. The ashes on her head spoke of her reality, a mortality we all share, “From dust you were born and to dust you shall return.” She chose to shorten her journey to the center. There she prayed and released her rock and her other burdens.

In watching her, I was so very grateful for God’s grace and forgiveness in that moment. There is no need to to follow a path made with human hands, no need to navigate rituals or rules, no need wait for God’s presence and pardon. “See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!” (2 Corinthians 6:2)

A huge THANK YOU to our friends at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Orlando, Florida for lending us their canvas prayer labyrinth.

This station is the first of four prayer stations designed for use on Ash Wednesday. They could of course be used anytime when the themes for self reflection and prayer include our mortality, our sorrow for our sin, and recommitment to living in alignment with God’s holy will.

© 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia and Nicole Sallee. You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

For more information on the scripture translation, photos and the use of this resource in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.