Signs and Wonders: Prayers of the People

I have the honor of serving as the liturgist for the Massanetta Bible and Church Music conferences this week. Over the course of the week, I am leading worship eleven (ELEVEN?!) times,  and I have written every word of the 30 page worship book. It has been a lot of work, but it has also been an incredible joy. 

My office for the week

I will not post all 30 pages here, but I will post a few of my favorite pieces. These are the Prayers of the People from Monday Morning worship, inspired by the conference theme, “Remembering the Reformation,” and the sermon scripture for the day: Acts 5:12-32. 

Let us pray. 

Holy God, three-in-one,

We give you thanks for your holy spirit moving through this place.

We have seen your signs and wonders;

We have heard your teachings in the street.

We have felt the shadow of your presence,

and we have been witnesses to the depth of your grace.
We give you thanks for abundant grace

that you have showered upon this world.

We give you thanks for the saints of our faith,

who have followed your leading at any cost:

For Peter, John, and Mary, who were there tell the news of the first Easter Day;

For Paul, Lydia, and Chloe, who built the church on the foundation you laid;

For Martin, John, and Marie, who dared to lead your church in Reforming,

For all the reformers since,

who have dared to challenge the status quo.
We give you thanks, O God of wonders, for these and all the signs of your goodness.

People of God, for whom and for what else do we give thanks?

(Prayers are named aloud or in silence.)

We give you thanks, O God of Mercy,

Hear our prayers. 
Your apostles carried your good news into the streets,

into the temple,

into the lives of people who were hurting.

As you did then, O God of Peter,

speak to us with your signs and wonders.

Hear our prayers and free us from our bondage.
We pray for the world that you so love:

For the ones who are imprisoned, and find no angels to open the doors.

For the ones who are sick, and find nothing to heal them. 

For the ones who are lost, and fear that no one will find them.

For the ones who are hurting, with no balm to ease their pains.
People of God, for whom and for what else do we pray?

(Prayers are named, aloud or in silence.)

Bring your signs and wonders, Holy God, 

into our lives and into your world.

Breathe your healing presence, triune God,

and burst through our locked doors. 
We offer these prayers in the name of the Christ,

The one whom you sent to bring freedom to the world.



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Common Ground: Liturgy from the Garden

A few years ago, I planted my first vegetable garden. I fell in love with the way the soil felt under my fingernails, with the looks of surprise on neighbors’ faces when I brought them fresh vegetables, and, of course, with the taste of a freshly picked cherry tomato, still warm from the summer sun.

I often find metaphors in the garden, and, luckily for me, so did Jesus. This liturgy was written for Central Presbyterian Church, based on the lectionary gospel for this Sunday: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23.



My happy place

Opening Sentences

Listen, O people, for the word of God,

Giving seed to the sower and bread to the hungry.

Listen, O people, for the word of God,

Growing trees in the desert and fruit in the wilderness.

Listen O people, for the word of God,

Planting faith in the weary and hope in the desperate.

Listen O people, for the word of God,

And worship God with gladness.

Prayer of Confession

God the maker of all things good,

Have mercy upon your creation.

We gather on Sundays to nourish our faith,

But we find the seeds scorched in the light of Monday morning.

We want to bear fruits of compassion and kindness,

But we  fall into selfish habits,

and our discipleship withers.

Forgive us, God of mercy.

Shower us with your grace, and free us to try again.

The Affirmation of Faith draws from several of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s writings. While his words are not explicitly about gardening, they ring in my head every time my hands are in the soil. Weeds in one corner of the garden mean weed seeds in every corner. Earthworms in one place means good soil in another. Pesticide in one place means poison in every place. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. 

Affirmation of Faith Adapted excerpts from the writings of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We believe that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

We refuse to believe that we are unable to influence the events which surround us.

We refuse to believe that we are so bound to racism and war,

that peace, brotherhood and sisterhood are not possible.

We believe that we need to discover a way to live together in peace,

a way which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation.

The foundation of this way is love.

We believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.

We believe that what self-centered people have torn down,

other-centered people can build up.

By the goodness of God at work within people,

we believe that brokenness can be healed.

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Immigration Sunday: Communion Prayer


Signs of support for the elementary school students at the International Community School in my neighborhood in Decatur, GA

Today is “Immigration Sunday” in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Especially this year, it feels important to recognize Immigration Sunday at the Lord’s table. The following communion prayer is inspired by Immigration Sunday and the lectionary gospel passage, Matthew 10:40-42, and was written for Central Presbyterian Church.


The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them up to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give our thanks and praise.


Thanks and praise to you, O God,

Creator of all that has been, all that is, and all that will be.

From the beginning of beginnings, you have been good.

You formed humanity from the earth,

Giving us life and purpose.

In you, we are beloved dust:

Children of a loving God,

Called, claimed, and redeemed.

Through the centuries you have shouted and whispered to tell us of your love.

You have spoken through prophets and teachers,

Through the life of your son Jesus,

Through the holy stories of scripture,

Through the history of the church,

And through the unpredictable winds of your spirit.


You are faithful, O God of Abraham,

And your grace is a cup of cold water,

Refreshing us to our core.


In Jesus Christ, you showed us your vision for the world you created.

You showed us that kindness is worth the risk,

And love never fails.

You taught us that compassion will free us if we help it,

And selfishness will bury us if we let it.

You told us that the lines we draw to separate people are ours, not yours,

For we are all beloved dust: no more and no less.

Through Christ’s death and resurrection,

You turned our power structures upside down,

For your love is stronger than death itself.


At this table, we are united with Christ and with one another,

through the power and presence of your Holy Spirit.

At this table, all are welcome,

For you are both host and guest.


Come, Holy Spirit, and fill this space,

Enliven our hearts, open our minds, and empower our bodies

To recognize you in this holy meal.

Pour out your presence upon these gifts of bread and wine,

And upon all who partake of them,

That we might taste the goodness of our God.


All praise you, God of welcome,

And to Christ who taught to us to pray:

Blessed One, our Father and

our Mother, Holy is your

name. May your love be

enacted in the world. May

your will be done on earth

as in heaven.

Give us today our daily

bread and forgive us our

sins as we forgive those

who sin against us.

Save us in the time of trial

and deliver us from evil.

For all that we do in your

love, and all that your love

brings to birth,

and the fullness of love that

will be, are yours, now and

forever. Amen. 

(Inclusive Lord’s Prayer from “A New Monastic Handbook: From Vision to Practice” by Ian Mobsby and Mark Berry.)

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Laughing with Sarah: Prayers of the People for June 18


God of Abraham and Sarah,

We give you thanks this day for all that you created good.

You formed us out of dust,

Shaped us in your image,

Called us by your spirit,

Redeemed us by your grace.

You surprise us with your presence.

We laugh with wonder and amazement.


God of Hagar and Ishmael,

We bring to you the hurting of our world.

As you were present with your servants in the desert,

We pray that you will be present with us,

With the ones we love,

And with all who are in pain this day.


There was too much bad news this week, O Lord,

And we know that your tears were the first to fall.

For our world divided by false loyalties and harsh ideologies,

We pray for your uniting spirit.

For our siblings in Christ harmed by gun violence, assault, and war,

We pray for your spirit of peace,

For our neighbors who live in fear, grief, or pain,

We pray for your spirit of encouragement.

Empower us, O God, to be your hands and feet.

Move us to answer the cry of our neighbor.

Convict us to take responsibility

For our role in the violence of this world,

And lead us in shaping our lives to reflect your kingdom:

Where faith matters more than status,

Compassion more than comfort,

Peace more than calm.


God of Paul and of Chloe,

We give you thanks for the gift of your church,

And we ask that you make us faithful stewards of it.

We join our voices with the church far and wide,

Praying, Our father…

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New Life: A Eucharistic Prayer for Lazarus

This Great Prayer of Thanksgiving was written with today’s lectionary gospel in mind: John 11:1-45, the story of the raising of Lazarus.


The Lord be with you. And also with you.

Lift up your hearts. We lift them to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

It is right to give God thanks and praise.


Thanks and praise indeed, O God.

Thanks and and praise to you,

For you created all things good,

You create all things good,

And you sustain our lives through the goodness of your spirit.


Through the ages, you have been the God of life:

You brought new life through Eve and Adam;

Covenant life through Abraham and Sarah;

Faithful life through the voices of prophets;

The fullness of life through Jesus Christ our Lord.


You are the God of life, O Holy One,

And you are the God of our lives.

When we are swallowed by grief and fear,

You comfort us with new hope.

When we are certain that hope is gone,

You surprise with the depth of love.

When we turn away from your love,

You call us back, again and again,

With words of forgiveness and a spirit of peace.


Therefore we offer our thanks and praise,

Joining our voices with the faithful of the all the ages,

Who forever sing of your glory:

Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord. God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. 

Hosanna in the highest, O triune God,

For the gift of this holy meal,

The gift of this holy community,

And, most of all, the gift of your holy son.

Through Christ, you came among us,

Lived with us, and suffered for us us,

That we might have life and have it abundantly.

As we celebrate this sacred meal, we remember the meals that Jesus shared,

The words that Jesus said,

The death that Jesus died,

And the resurrection that Jesus embodied.


This faith we proclaim is beyond our understanding,

yet we live in the light of its truth.

Great is the mystery of faith:

Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.


We gather at this table as the body of Christ,

Many members united in one faith, one Lord, one baptism.

We pray for your spirit of comfort, strength, and healing upon us and the ones we love:

[Name the prayer concerns of your community]


Pour out your Holy Spirit upon us, O God of Life,

And upon these gifts of fruit and grain,

That they may be for us the presence of Christ through the power of your Spirit.

Unite us with you and with one another through the sharing of this meal.

Nourish us in faith, encourage us in hope,

And lead us more deeply into the fullness of life in You.


We pray now the words that Jesus taught us, saying, Our father… Amen.

Words of Instutition

Communion of the People 

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God So Loved: A New Liturgy for John 3:16

I have a complicated relationship with this Sunday’s lectionary gospel text, John 3:1-17. John 3 is a beautiful story of Jesus speaking with Nicodemus in the night. It is a witness to Christ’s invitation into communion with God, and it is a story that has been reduced to a catchphrase.

In worship at Central Presbyterian this week, we will reframe our thinking about John 3:16 and its surrounding story with words of love, invitation, and hope. Perhaps these words will resonate with you, too.


Nicodemus by Henry Ossawa Tanner

This Call to Worship draws from scriptures about love, including quotes from 1 John 4:7, Leviticus 19:18, 1 Corinthians 13:8, Romans 13:10, Matthew 22:37, and John 3:16. 

Hear these words from Scripture:

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God.”

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

“Love never ends.”

“Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

“God so loved the world.”

God so loves the world.

Let us worship the God of love and life.


Prayer of Confession

Holy one, holy three,

The winds of your Spirit beckon us to follow,

but we cannot hear the wind over the noise we have created.

Again and again, you call us to believe.

Again and again, we look the other way.

You offer us freedom, but we choose independence,

Pretending that we have ultimate control.

You offer us life, but we find ourselves perishing,

Buried under the weight of our own self-interest.

Forgive us, God of life.

Heal us, and bring us peace.  

Silence and kyrie


Assurance of Pardon

God so loved the world that God would come among us,

Become one of us, live with us, and suffer for us,

That we might have life and have it abundantly.

Hear this good news:

God loves us, God forgives us, and God calls us to try again.  

Thanks be to God. Amen.


Affirmation of Faith                  Excerpts Adapted from the Heidelberg Catechism (1562)

What is your only comfort in life and in death?

That I am not my own,

but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—

to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.

What is true faith?

True faith is not only a sure knowledge by which I hold as true

all that God has revealed to us in Scripture;

it is also a wholehearted trust,

which the Holy Spirit creates in me by the gospel,

that God has freely granted,

not only to others but to me also, forgiveness of sins,

eternal righteousness, and salvation.

These are gifts of sheer grace,

granted solely by Christ’s merit.

But why are you called a Christian?

Because by faith I am a member of Christ

and so I share in his anointing.

I am anointed to confess his name,

to present myself to him as a living sacrifice of thanks,

to strive with a free conscience against sin and evil in this life,

and afterward to reign with Christ over all creation for eternity.

Since we have been delivered from our misery by grace through Christ without any merit of our own,

why then should we do good works?

Because Christ, having redeemed us,

is also restoring us by his Spirit into his image,

so that with our whole lives

we may show that we are thankful to God for God’s benefits,

so that God may be praised through us.


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Transfiguration: Prayers of the People

These Prayers of the People were written for Transfiguration Sunday and are framed by the New Testament lectionary reading from Matthew 17. Throughout the prayer, a second voice reads excerpts from the text.

May these words bring you a glimpse of the light of God’s glory.


“Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.”

As we hear your story of transformation, O God,

we pray for your Spirit to transform us.

Transform our eyes to see the light of your glory.

Transform our hearts to feel the goodness of your presence.

Transform our minds to understand a fraction of your will.

Transform our world to recognize the ties that bind us to one another.

“Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’”

We give thanks, O Holy One,

for the goodness of your words, the goodness of your world,

and the goodness of your Spirit who beckons us to follow.

Give us the mind of Peter, to recognize that we stand on holy ground.

Give us the humility to proclaim, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.”

Like Peter, we want to built a tent on the mountain top,

away from the problems and distractions of the world.

Just as you did for Peter, O God,

let us sit in your glory just long enough to recharge for the journey,

and then send us out for your service in your world.

“While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved;  with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’”

Holy one, you sent Christ, your son, your beloved,

to show us that we, too, are your children.

Make us know, O God, that our worth does not come from our work.

Our performance on tests or tasks or job interviews does not determine our value.

Our worth, our identity, our very being, comes from you, O God of grace.

In your image, we are created.

In your grace, we are redeemed.

In your community, we are loved.

In your spirit, we are called.

“When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Get up and do not be afraid.’”

As the disciples were, O God, we are overcome by fear, anxiety, grief, or sadness.

Pour your healing into our wounds.

Breathe your goodness into our doubts.

Touch us, heal us, and bring us peace.

We lift before you the people in our church and in our world

who are hurting:

[Name the prayer concerns of your community, and allow room for silence.]


“And when the disciples looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.”

Give us the hope and faith, O holy one,

to look and up and see your presence around around us.

Give us the strength to know that we are not alone.

We join our voices with your disciples across all times and places as we pray, “Our father…” 


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