I’ve been working on a booklet containing prayers, meditations, graces, words for lighting a chalice, and affirmations, to send home with families that have children or teens at home. One challenge has been to come up with copyright-free materials that today’s Unitarian Universalist families are likely to use. Another challenge has been to come up with materials that will appeal to the wide range of theologies we have in the New Bedford church.
Most recently, I came up with some prayers based on Bible materials, and I thought I’d share some of these here. First, a recasting of the prayer attributed to Jesus (though scholars say it’s based on a much older Jewish prayer). Traditionalists will cringe, but I rewrote it because I realized that, having heard it every week in the Unitarian Universalist church of my teens, I no longer heard it.
God of love,
your name is goodness and holiness.
May your love be present in all the nations of earth,
just as I feel your love in my heart.
Grant us the food we need today,
grant all people the food they need today.
Forgive me when I fail, and
help me forgive those who fail me.
May I not be tempted by evil or wrong-doing —
may your love watch over me, and over us all.
–a traditional Jewish prayer, adapted by early Christian communities, and further adapted by Dan Harper
Next, a short prayer that uses phraseology from pseudo-Paul’s alleged second letter to the Christian community at Thessalonika. I found a version of this in the old hymnal We Sing of Life, by Vincent Silliman, where it is credited to A New Prayer Book, 1923. I adapted it further.
May I go forth into the world in peace,
and be of good courage,
and hold fast to what is good,
returning to no person evil for evil.
May I strengthen the fainthearted
and help the weak,
and be patient with all persons,
loving all living beings.
So may I rejoice in life,
and give thanks for that which is good.
— adapted from A New Prayer Book and 2 Thessalonians 5.14-18
Finally, I got this old chestnut from Rev. Helen Cohen, minister emerita of First Parish, Lexington, Mass. I traced it to the old children’s hymnal, Beacon Song and Service Book, but I believe it’s older than that. At the request of someone in this congregation, I tracked down the likely scripture references contained in this prayer.
May the truth that sets us free,
And the hope that never dies,
And the love that casts out fear
Be with us now
Until the dayspring breaks,
And the shadows flee away.
— adapted from the Christian and Hebrew scriptures (John 8.32, Romans, John 4.18, Song of Solomon 2.17)
I’m thinking these short prayers will be useful both for Unitarian Universalists who are Christian, and those who have rejected Christianity. I’d be interested to hear your reactions.