the simple prayers

Rather than observe Christ the King Sunday, our congregation took time to acknowledge Thanksgiving yesterday.  It was a long day at church and I had the chance to participate in three different worship services as they took a spin at the concept of gratitude.  Each was edifying in its own way, but the most moving to me was the last.  Our evening service is an opportunity to do things less formally and a little more creatively.  A colleague put last night’s service together, and at the last minute he asked me to assist.  He handed me instructions for a prayer I would invite children to lead the congregation in praying and told me to go find six different colors of construction paper – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.

The prayer was so very simple I almost laughed.  One at a time a child was to hold up each color of paper.  And then we would name things we were thankful for that are the same color.  Then after each color we thanked God for all of the things we’d just named.  After that, on to the next color.  I couldn’t believe it when I found myself tearing up somewhere between yellow lemons and green grass.  Maybe it was just the effects of a long day, but I think it was more than that.

Sometimes the simplest prayers are all we need.  Meister Eckhart said that “Thank you” were the only prayer we ever said, it would be enough.  And Anne Lamott wrote somewhere that her two most often prayed prayers are “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” and “Help me, help me, help me.”  It’s easy for me to get caught up in the whole business of how to pray, where to pray, should I pray with scripture, should I pray out loud, should I sit silently, maybe I should journal, and on and on.  Before I know it, I’ve used up my thirty minutes in the morning and never got around to actual prayer.  Maybe I need a lesson in simplicity from these kids.  Just pray the rainbow: thank you God for firetrucks and oranges and carrots and lemons and trees and blue eyes and purple shoes.  Or the alphabet.  Or just Thank you, God.

In that spirit, I offer a few of the things we were thankful for.

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