The Idiot’s Guide to Doing Intercessions – Top Ten Tips

Idiot 1) Before the event
If you are doing the intercessions, you should be invited before the service to the vestry prayers. Carpe diem is the motto here. Be the first in the huddle to pray and do so fervently. Get yourself some cracking openers and closers to your prayers. The Book of Common Prayer has some belters. Memorise these. They make your prayers sound pious and deep and the quality of your words in the middle then becomes inconsequential. Use plenty of thees, thys, and thous, again to add sanctity. For example, use ‘We beseech thee’ instead of ‘We ask.’ Make sure you offer a resounding Amen to everyone else’s prayers and be sure to be the last one in the vestry to pray. You’re now on fire for the service.
2) Intercessions
This is your big break. Aim for a minimum of 10-15 minutes. With practice and good preparation, you can work this up higher. Challenge yourself to make it longer than the sermon.  After all, no-one is going to stop you midstream whilst you are at prayer. And buy a good stop watch. This way you can aim to improve your personal best on each occasion.
3) Rota
Get your name on the intercessions rota twice. In this way your turn comes round more often.
4) Lists
Make good lists of those to pray for. It is customary in some churches to start with the sovereign. This is ideal as you can then work your way down the church hierarchy – the archbishops, diocesan bishops, archdeacons, rural deans, local vicars, and you can include other local churches and denominations too, taking care to omit any dubious door-knocking sects. Don’t forget the local schools, and the Fire Department and health services – hospitals and local doctor’s surgeries add nicely to the list and should all be named individually. Also, aim to include your own specific concerns such as Transgender Rights for North Sea Trawler Men or the East Midlands Chihuahua Rescue Centre, whatever your personal crusades are. This brings important personal issues to the congregation’s attention.
5) Use an IPad or tablet
This not only makes you look cool and modern but you can cross reference your prayers with poems, bible references and so on, so that you can draw on additional materials. You can also draw up a nice analogy with Moses’ tablets of stone (a little humour always works well and shows your human side) and hence build in a little mini-sermon on how you are just like Moses bringing God’s word to his people. Nice touch, eh?
 6) The Sick
Get to church early and go round everyone to ask who is sick and needs prayer. Everyone will be so astounded by your empathetic concern for the unwell that they will each give you at least 3 or 4 names, even if it’s only for ingrowing toenails or a cold. And voilà, you have another great list for prayer. Make sure to make careful notes to avoid praying for recovery for Joe Bloggs from his recent hysterectomy. In fact a basic knowledge of medical complaints is advisable. The best advice is to avoid anything to do with the nether regions or ‘down there.’ For some reason, piles are always a cause of great hilarity.
7) Pray for the church
Don’t forget the oft neglected folk on tea rotas, maintenance teams, knitting circles etc. and check that your list of names is up to date. This is also a great point to have a swipe at the vicar, church leaders or any other group that’s got on your nerves recently. Subtlety is the best weapon, a hint or innuendo is all that is needed to rattle the opposition. So, if you’re after the flower arrangers, thank them for all their hard work and say how nice it will be to have some fresh blooms in the church next week. Also include here any personal agenda items that have been ignored by the church council. Pray for them to happen. For instance your idea for building a mixed-sex prayer sauna room in the church hall would fit nicely in this slot. And include the minutiae of your idea so that it gets a proper public airing – for instance your suggestion for two separate saunas one for the evangelicals, one for the liberals.
8) Maintaining attention
You want everyone to hang on your every word. Therefore don’t include any congregational responses as this distracts from the articulate nature of your flow. Likewise avoid any periods of silence. You want people to listen to your prayers, and not go all reflective and meditative on you.
9) PowerPoint
Yes, it would be a nice opportunity to show off your PowerPoint skills but remember everyone’s eyes will be firmly closed and you’d only have to describe what is on each slide, so not a good idea.
 10) Feedback
And finally the golden rule. Never be disappointed if you don’t receive loud congratulations over coffee after the service and in fact find people are avoiding you. This is quite common and associated with their jealousy at your efforts. It is actually a great accolade and should spur you on to even greater things.
© R Palmer 2015

Preparing for Silence

Still my body from its work, Lord,
Still my body.
Hear my silent prayer.
Still my mind from its worry, Lord,
Still my mind.
Hear my silent prayer.
Still my heart from all grievance, Lord,
Still my heart.
Hear my silent prayer.
Still my spirit from all anguish, Lord,
Still my spirit.
Hear my silent prayer.
Lord, bring me to silence and stillness
Lord, bring me to silence and stillness
Lord, bring me to silence and stillness
Into the restfulness of my body, bring your healing.
In this silence, be with me.
Into the quiet of my mind, bring your thoughts.
In this silence, be with me.
Into the stillness of my heart, bring your love.
In this silence, be with me.
Into the peace of my spirit, bring your holiness.
In this silence, be with me.
Amen
© R Palmer 2015 These prayers can be used and reproduced freely for worship. Where they reproduced in print, in a church magazine or on the Web, we’d love to know. Please include a citation of their source thus: Reproduced from thespiritualgardener.com

50 Shades of Day

 

NottinghamI went on a creative outing last week with Street Wisdom in Nottingham. For the uninitiated, their enticing strapline is ‘Learning Takes to the Streets’ and the general idea is that ‘the environment and people around us are full of wisdom we largely overlook or ignore.’ We were briefed to take a question or problem with us that we were looking to solve and to use the creativity of the cityscape to review it anew. And so we met, a bit apprehensively from my point of view on Nottingham Town Hall steps, having already approached a couple of strangers to ask if they were Street Wisdom and getting some quizzical looks. I eventually found the group. Preliminaries out of the way, the session started with four quick exercises undertaken alone a 10 minute stroll in each case to 1) Go to what draws you; 2) Slow…right…down; 3) Look for patterns; 4) Look for beauty. This gave us the eyes to see and the ears to listen and honed our observational skills for the rest of the afternoon.
 Duly primed, we then went off on our Quest. This consisted of totally free-flow time of an hour, equipped only with a map tucked under our arm of where we were to congregate for our debriefing session, and with our problem to be solved tucked neatly in our mind. We could share our problem with the rest of the Wisdom seekers or keep it to ourselves but were encouraged to talk with people along the way and observe our environment.
 My Quest took me through a student part of the city where I found many new and exciting shops, purveying all sorts of goods and services and ending up in a cracking music shop where I spent a lively time discussing the merits of buying a new drum kit that I’d had my eyes on for some months, and had been prevaricating on the wisdom of so doing. .
 We met up in a pub for the wash up session, which spoke loudly to me. We had all had very different experiences in our discoveries and our adventures. And that’s where the 50 Shades of Day come in. We all found different shadings in the afternoon’s activity and took very different thoughts away from the day.  One of my observations was the detachedness of people in cities. Many were ensconced in their headsets with music or glued to their phones, texting and talking and very much missing that life was actually all around them. The flip side of that was sitting watching a terrier patiently observe its owner as he devoured a tub of ice cream. I had to sit and wait to watch the outcome. In the end, he got to lick the tub out. I was quite relieved as I was going to buy him a cornet if he hadn’t got his just desserts. It was a nice counterpoint, a glimpse of trust and sharing, mutuality and relationship in the frenzy of city life.
So what was Street Wisdom all about for me? You can call this what you like, but it certainly is a creative process, call it mindfulness, prayer, intuition, contemplation – depending what baseline you come from. It is a well-documented process, stepping out of your box to improve your creativity.  Einstein was a big believer in intuition and creativity and found music a great influence in his problem solving. And we all know the story of Archimedes nearly slipping up on the bar of soap as he leapt up in the bath with a flash of insight. Many artists and writers get their insightful breakthroughs on a walk in the great outdoors. Having done a lot of retreats of various lengths in my time, some in silence, it felt a bit like a mini-retreat to me, but with the added advantage of a top flight drum store on tap. And the whole session was free.
 So did I solve my problem? I got a lot of new thoughts and ideas on it and am developing some of them now. And the bonus ball was that I now also know I’m going to get that new drum kit, which one I’m going to get and the store where I’m going to buy it.
http://www.streetwisdom.org/about/

 

A Prayer for Alzheimer’s

It seems that when you have cancer you are a brave battler against the disease, but when you have Alzheimer’s you are an old fart. That’s how people see you. It makes you feel quite alone. ~ Terry Pratchett 
Lord Jesus Christ,
One of those I love is now lost to me.
Their mind is muddled
Their memories destroyed
Their vistas distorted.
They cannot remember,
They cannot recall.
Lord Jesus Christ, help me to remember the person. 
Lord, it is hard to answer the same questions
They ask me again and again.
And it is hard when they ask me who I am.
And it is hard when they cannot remember
The good times we spent, the hard times we overcame.
And it is hard when they are aggressive or unloving.
Lord Jesus Christ, help me to remember the person. 
Lord, if it were their body that was weakened,
I would still think they were themselves.
Help me to see that they are still there
Deep in their soul and being, they live on intact.
And it is only the filter of their mind that distorts.
They are still there.
Lord Jesus Christ, help me to remember that they are still there.
 Lord, bring your angels to surround them,
Your Holy Spirit to fill them,
Your love to encase them.
Touch all who care for them;
Uphold and bless their work.
Lord Jesus Christ, help me to remember that they are still there.
Lord Jesus Christ,
Bring me the patience to deal with their brokenness,
The heart to love them as they were,
And the vision to see through the mist of their demented lens.
Lord Jesus Christ, help me to remember the person.
Lord Jesus Christ, help me to remember that they are still there.
Amen
© R Palmer 2015 These prayers can be used and reproduced freely for worship. Where they reproduced in print, in a church magazine or on the Web, please include a citation of their source thus: Reproduced from thespiritualgardener.com

 

Enfold Me

GOD is breath, for the breath of the wind is shared by all, goes everywhere; nothing shuts it in, nothing holds it prisoner. ~ Maximus the Confessor
Your sunlight
Filtered through stained glass.
Your stone, by human hand ennobled.
The softness of the day
Shadow and reflection,
Lightness in darkness.
The peace of silence,
The smell of prayer,
The taste of hope,
The touch of silken love.
My life
My story
Mystery.
Enfold me, Lord.
Enfold me, light and dark,
And hold me in your loving hand.
Amen
© R Palmer 2015 These prayers can be used and reproduced freely for worship. Where they reproduced in print, in a church magazine or on the Web, please include a citation of their source thus: Reproduced from thespiritualgardener.com

Universal God

If God can work through me, he can work through anyone ~ Francis of Assisi
Cherubim and seraphim,
Flotsam and jetsam,
Saints and sinners,
Ebony and ivory,
LGBT and LSD,
You love us all the same, my God.
Amen
© R Palmer 2015 These prayers can be used and reproduced freely for worship. Where they reproduced in print, in a church magazine or on the Web, please include a citation of their source thus: Reproduced from thespiritualgardener.com