Imaginative prayer for a friend

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two men clapping each other on shore

Moved by the need of a friend we cry out to God for help. And that is good and lovely and pleasing to God. But how do we go about it? Do you find it hard?

One reason we may find this prayer hard is that we cannot rely on words; if we do not know the solution God is working towards we cannot weave helpful phrases. Try instead this imaginative exercise – this is just as much a prayer as an impassioned string of words. Move slowly through it, taking time to see, hear and smell events, and to listen for wisdom.

  • Read Mark ch 2: 1-12, the story of the paralytic man being lowered through the roof to Jesus. Just like you, those who carried the man wanted to bring their friend to Jesus.
  • There is a first scene, not recorded in the gospel but that must have taken place. At the man’s house, his friends must have got him out of bed and on to a stretcher. Imagine going to your friend, suggesting prayer as a way of meeting his or her need. Perhaps they are apathetic, uninterested. Perhaps others around them suggest it is wrong to get up their hopes in this way, better to leave them in peace. How do you feel?
  • You cannot lift the stretcher alone, who is going to help you? Perhaps you have praying friends that you automatically turn to. Or there may be others who also care about your friend who you do not really know, but this is a time to accept their help. Or perhaps you simply have to trust God; that as you do what you can, He will stir others to add their support, unseen by you.
  • Take time to experience the journey to Jesus, to acknowledge the weight of the stretcher. It is hard getting the stretcher to the roof – are there times when you feel like giving up?
  • What happens as you lower him? Do you try calling out to Jesus, explaining the situation? Does Jesus look at you or does He focus on the needy person? How does that make you feel -perhaps a bit upset at not being involved? Had you been hoping that Jesus would acknowledge your hard work?
  • When Jesus speaks to her or him, does He say what you expect Him to say or do you feel He has missed the need as you understand it? The scripture recounts two different but related healings from Jesus for this man, what two separate blessings might he give to your friend?
  • What is the outcome – for your friend, for you for the crowd/community?

It may be helpful to use this prayer again and again, on your own or with others who want to support your friend (or of course you can adapt it for your nation, church, even yourself). As you get to know the story and to create a background, it will become easier to hear what Jesus is saying. As you stay with this story, both as written in Scripture and as you adapt it to your need, you can also adapt the above prayer outline to your situation (eg include the crowd, the difficulty getting to Jesus).

Then go on to find other passages in Scripture you can use in the same way.

God and the end of lockdown

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man in gray hoodie using laptop computer

Does this seem an odd place to talk about something so pragmatic as how we deal with the end of lockdown? On the contrary, if a desert bush could burn with God’s fire for Moses, so we may find this time of (partial) deconfinement filled with God’s holiness. It is up to us.

We can react as circumstances change. That is probably what most of us have been doing, unable to predict or to prepare for the next stage. Or we can pray and reflect so that we are ready to respond as God’s people to each change that comes our way.

So here are some questions and issues to pray about and to reflect on so as to help our thoughts:

  • What will I miss from lockdown? It is very normal to feel it as a difficult time, but if we turn it round and consider what advantages it has brought (quiet, family, time to pray, relaxation etc) we might be more prepared for the loss of those things.
  • Do I want to keep any of those things going? Do I have a confinement gift or skill (listening to others, writing a diary) that I desire to build into my next stage of life?
  • How has lockdown left me (and those around me)  feeling? I may be full of energy and enthusiasm after a time of gathering my energy, more likely I have experienced fear, grief, exhaustion and a (temporary) difficulty with finding the right words. Can I be gentle with myself and others as we return to what we consider normal?
  • How have I changed this year and how will I help others to be aware of it? We all change all the time anyway and it can be difficult to make other people aware that we feel differently on some issues, or respond differently from how we did a year ago. Even more after this unusual time. (And the reverse, will I be on the lookout for changes in others?)
  • Do I want to return to everything as it was or do I want somethings to be different (in church, office, education etc)? What effort am I willing to make either way and how will I interact with people who feel differently?
  • Do I want to use this opportunity for a new start, to explore a new path? Does it coincide with a time in my life when I want to turn over a new page? I might want to find someone (clergy, spiritual companion/director, friend) who can help me start again. (The image I have been pondering recently is from Philip Larkin’s poem ‘The Trees’; the trees grow older yet each year they grow fresh leaves).
  • What if another lockdown comes? Are my expectations realistic? Do I know what I want to do before that happens? Would I handle it the same way?
  • Do I need to build bridges – is there a friend I’ve lost touch with, someone I’ve disagreed with or grown away from?
  • What changes will this make in the rhythm of my spiritual life – regular prayer, pleasing solitude, working out my own salvation without reference to others?
  • How will I look for God in the new patterns of life? Will I notice if I am inclined to spot God’s presence less? Will the change to my pattern of life make me more or less open to awareness of God?

Welcome to Godspace

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Looking for inner peace? Need time away from your busy life to focus on God and Christ? We run silent retreats, workshops and other stuff in the Brussels area to help you find the space to meet your Lord.

Godspace was set up in 2013 by Sonja Stark and Kevin Colyer to provide training for and practice of contemplative prayer in the EU Quarter of Brussels, and now focuses on Silent Retreats under the leadership of Sonja and Bess Brooks

Jesus – The Good Shepherd

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The image of Jesus as the good shepherd is one that resonates with many people, invoking thoughts of divine care, protection and guidance.

In the last few weeks I spent some time exploring the theme of the good shepherd and I was deeply touched by what I discovered.

What makes Jesus the good shepherd

He protects 
A shepherd tended his flock day and night. He would gather the sheep into a sheepfold at night for their protection. The sheepfold was a pen, a cave, or an area backed by stone walls. Since there were no doors, the shepherd would often sleep or sit in the opening, ready to guard his sheep from harm. 

“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:28 When  Iplace myself under the care of Jesus our life may not be perfect but we are safe with him.

He guides
“He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”       Ps 23:3

Jesus shows us a better way to live.  When we follow him, he is glorified.
His followers (sheep) rely on Jesus (shepherd) to keep them safe and to lead them throughout life.

His closeness with the individual sheep is clear in vs. 3 when it says he calls them by name. Wow – He calls me by name!!  I know His voice. Jesus seeks me out when I am lost. Jesus places me tenderly on His shoulders. Jesus invites me back to the flock when I go astray. Jesus guides me gently to where is best for me. These realities calm my fears, especially in a time of great uncertainty.

He nurtures us and knows us fully
“He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” Isaiah 40:11

What a beautiful image, full of loving care and gentleness.
in John 10, is SAYS that the good shepherd is personally, if not intimately involved with all his sheep. 

In other words, Jesus knows the deepest, most wicked, and shameful parts of us and loves us deeply enough to still lay down His life for us. Jesus already knows the depths of our soul, our greatest fears, and grandest dreams. 

He lays down his life
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” 
John 10:11

Jesus showed his love for us by leaving heaven, entering humanity, living a perfect life, and paying the price for our sins by dying on the cross.  He rose again, ascended to heaven to be with his Father, and intercedes on our behalf so that we can enter into relationship with God. Jesus rescued us and lay down his life for us, his sheep. 

He gathers the sheep

Jesus not only gathers each of us as individuals, He gathers us together as a flock. He comes to give us life together. He not only relates to each of us personally, He is also in the midst of us, uniting us as one, bringing us together, and leading us forward together. 

Sheep need to be part of a fold within the flock. For sheep, a “herd-mentality” is a good thing because there is nothing more threatening to its welfare than isolation. Sheep are highly vulnerable and defenseless, so isolation makes them easy targets for predators. 

I believe this is a very important truth. As we are waiting to see how Corona influences long-term our society, families and culture, one thing has become obvious. Many Christians are more reluctant to attend a church on a regular basis. The enemy found a way to weaken our faith and pull us away from God, the source of life.

We are called to live in the context of the local church, in community with other believers because independence and self-sufficiency make us highly irrational and extremely vulnerable to attacks from the enemy. God designed us to depend on one another for strength and guidance and wisdom, as we corporately depend on our Good Shepherd. 

Questions to reflect on

  • Who is my shepherd? Does my shepherd care for me like this? 
  • Which qualities of the good shepherd have I experienced most in my life (give examples)?
  • Which qualities would I like to discover in my relationship with the good shepherd? How can I perceive my circumstances in light of these qualities?
  • How would my life be different if I would really believe that He is the good shepherd?


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black framed Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses on top of book

Holidays are here again! I can tell by the reduced traffic in the street and the summer sales in the shops. (The lateness of this blog may reflect lazy summer days too).  Summer holidays are part of the pattern of the school year and part of the dream tourist and travel businesses try to sell us.

But what do holidays mean to you and me?  It may be you cannot afford to go on holiday, or cannot find the time. If you have just arrived as a refugee you may not want to risk leaving the country in case the authorities don’t let you back. On your own you may not like the idea of travelling as a single in a holiday season that seems aimed at couples and families. Babies and children at home, or adult children and grandchildren coming to visit may make this a tense and exhausting period.

Yet the original ideas: of holy days to remember God, to have a celebration and to change the pattern of life; and of the sabbath to pause on a weekly (or other) basis so as to have a change of rhythm, these are good ideas.

So how can we draw from them? How can we make the next two months times of growth and renewal?Create whatever you have the energy and time for, here are some thoughts to get you started:

  • How do you build God into your holiday plans? Seek God in nature, use different bible study notes, or don’t use them at all but find a different way of structuring your prayer time. Walk instead of sitting, sing instead of speaking, listen instead of talking.
  • Enjoy celebrating yourself, your friends and your family (even if they are annoying at times!) Practice an ‘attitude of gratitude’ for whatever and whoever turns up.
  • Change your rhythm. London cockneys used to leave their slums and shops to work in the fields at harvest time – not a rest, but a change of pace, of air, of neighbours. What can you change? (If you cannot take your annual break in the next two months, make sure a change of pace is factored in at some point in the year.)
  • Create your own sabbath: it might not be every 7 days (try 1 minute an hour!), but make it a pause that is a holy time.

Prayer – a varied landscape

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Our lovely Bernese Mountain Dog has something wrong with her paw!  It’s nothing serious but she is limping a little, and daily walks are confined to half-hour jaunts right now.  But even in her present difficulties, we can open our front door and explore surprisingly varied countryside for 30 minutes.  Our circuit covers cobbled pavements (not ideal for sore paws!), peaceful wooded areas with soft undergrowth, a steep tarmac-ed path near a very loud motorway and then open fields. So, we experience a variety of mini- landscapes within a short distance of where we live.

On our walk through the woods today, I started to make connections between these shortened dog-walks and my prayer-life over the past *** years. I realised that prayer could be described as a varied landscape too, in some ways.  So many different ways of praying or being with God.  And times when it is smooth easy-going, and times which feel distinctly bumpy or arid. 

One of the many possible ways of “categorising” prayer is to make a distinction between silence and sound.   Particularly, the sound of the human voice. I am someone who often enjoys silent meditation.  But there are times in life, when I am tempted to use the silence to turn inwards and to dwell on the difficult things around me, I actually need words, specifically other people’s words.  And I have benefited hugely from daily prayer apps such the one produced by the Church of England (“Daily Prayer”).  I’ve been lifted out of myself and oriented towards God by participating in the creative blending of spoken Scripture, corporate prayer and music.

Perhaps you are “the other way around” at the moment.  Life is very busy – there is a lot of noise of different kinds and you don’t want more spoken words or sound, particularly.  You would love the chance to spend extended time with God in silence. 

If this is you, why not join us on our summer retreat this year?

It’s from Thursday 25 August 2022 at 19h00

to Sunday 28 August 2022 at around 16h00

at the Centre Spirituel Ignatien La Pairelle

25, rue Marcel Lecompte

5100 Wepion (Namur)

The retreat, which is open to all Christians in Belgium aged 18+, offers space to spend a long week-end with God using the theme “walking by the river”. It will largely be in silence (with input/suggestions for guided prayer from the leaders – Sonja, Ann and myself).

If you’d like more information, go to the Events page and choose Future Events.

Maybe see you there?


Summer silent retreat: Walking by the River

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We warmly invite you to join us on our summer silent retreat, “Walking by the River”, which will take place

From Thursday 25 August 2022 at 19h00 (no dinner provided that evening)

To Sunday 28 August 2022 at around 16h00

This retreat, open to all Christians in Belgium aged 18+, offers space to spend a long week-end with God using the theme “walking by the river”. There will be a maximum of 16 participants, including three leaders. The retreat will largely be in silence (with input/suggestions for guided prayer from the leaders).

Those leaders are Bess Brooks and Sonja Stark (St Paul’s, Tervuren) and Ann Milton (Holy Trinity, Brussels).

The price is 175 euros which includes:

  • overnight accommodation in ensuite single bedrooms (couples sleep separately on the retreat) on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights
  • all meals on Friday and Saturday, and breakfast and lunch on Sunday
  • tea, coffee, water throughout
  • print-outs of texts used for guided prayer, if any

Booking opens 14 June. If you are interested, please EITHER leave a comment below OR email and we will send you a booking link

Other practical Information


Centre Spirituel Ignatien La Pairelle

25, rue Marcel Lecompte

5100 Wepion (Namur)

If you don’t have a car or want to drive with someone, please email AFTER BOOKING YOUR PLACE FROM 14 JUNE and Bess, Sonja or Ann will try and put you in touch with other participants (this can’t be guaranteed).

Arrival & departure time

Please arrive between 19h00 and 19h30 on Thursday evening.  NO dinner is provided that evening so please eat before you come.

Our first meeting starts at 20h00 on Thursday evening.

We end around 16h00 on Sunday afternoon.

To bring (intended to be a helpful list, not exhaustive)

  • Sheets and pillowcase for single bed and towels (you have your own bathroom!!).  Please note: SHEETS and not a duvet cover.  The pillows are usually square – you might wish to bring your own pillow and pillow-case in you prefer something different
  • Journal/notebook and pen
  • Bible
  • House shoes
  • Your medication (no pharmacy close by)
  • All toiletries
  • Comfortable clothes and walking shoes (the spiritual center is in a nice area where there are many opportunities for walking)
  • Appropriate outdoor clothing e.g. sun-hat, raincoat etc.  You will benefit from time outside whatever the weather
  • Your own snacks if you have allergies/ intolerances, or you want something special to snack on
  • Books and other activities as you wish, but don’t bring too many! Remember that you will also need time just to be with God without distraction and to pray.

(Optional, depending on your own interests):

  • Artist’s sketchpad and pencils
  • Camera (or mobile phone with integrated camera)


Please let us know if you have any questions.  EITHER leave a comment below OR email and one of us will answer.

We are looking forward to this special time we will have together

Bess, Sonja and Ann

Holding on to God all day

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man using phone

‘I give time to God in the morning, then I go out of my bedroom and leave him there!’.

This is a heartfelt cry which I believe is often true for many of us. Sunday worship that only lifts us for Sunday, prayer in the bedroom that stays in the bedroom, even Godspace retreat days may fail to bring God into the rest of our lives!

So what do we do? I see two ways to approach this:

Firstly, consider why our prayer doesn’t have a longer lasting effect. If our prayer is not influencing our day, perhaps it needs overhauling. Consider  the point of your prayer. Is it to persuade God to achieve certain things on our behalf this day? To try and change the odds in a universe which feels stacked against us? Surely not.

I suggest we need to pray in the morning to assert our unity with God, to allow God’s presence to be the reality of our day. We pray to be drawn into relationship with the Trinity, to be open to discovering the holy and sacred in every aspect of our lives this day. We open ourselves to become more holy, a fit temple for the Holy Spirit. (if you don’t like the last paragraph, that is fine but try redrafting it in your own language; why do you think you pray?)  

Do our prayers involve aspects of the day, envisaging situations that will or may arrive and considering God in them? Do we intercede only for those we feel we ought to or also for those we will encounter?  If you are used to doing imaginative contemplation of Scripture, you might try imagining the day that is to come (‘the scripture of your life’), looking out for where God might ‘play a role’ in this day?

Secondly: find ways of taking your prayer time into the day.

a) Praying the examen in the midst of the day is a discreet and long-tried way of involving God in the day offers various versions of the examen both as a book and as an app.

b) payg (pray as you go) is an app specifically designed for prayer on your commute to work – every-one has their phone on, why not you? (there are many other similar apps, find one that suits you)

c) Use prayer triggers (these might seem gimmicky, but if they help you to think about God, what is wrong with gimmicks!) such as getting in the habit of remembering God as you go through a doorway, or on a staircase (liminal spaces that cry out to be occupied by the Holy One). In mainstream Rabbinic Judaism, a prayer scroll is fixed to the doorpost of homes to fulfill the Biblical commandment to “write the words of God on the gates and doorposts of your house” (Deuteronomy 6:9), but also as a sign and reminder of the Covenant, of our love and commitment and our willingness to create a believing household . How could you echo this practice in your daily life?

d) practice what is commonly known as ‘the prayer of the heart’. See elsewhere on this site for the ‘Jesus prayer’. Gradually extend it so that your heart is praying all day long, prayer becomes the background to all you do. It sounds hard but is not, it just needs a lot of time to develop the habit.(The classic resource for this is Brother Lawrence, Practicing the presence of God’).

e) Carry a holding cross, bookmark or prayer beads that has been with you while you prayed; slip it into your pocket and finger it throughout the day, let it take you back to the feeling when you were praying.

f) use your phone wisely, what helps you as a picture, text or jingle; what other reminders can you build into the phone? Use the alarm on your phone to remind you to pray the Lord’s prayer once every two hours (or whatever works!).

g) let your morning prayer give you ideas of where to look for God in the day, eg if you have prayed for those on the street, each time you pass a beggar think ‘could that be Christ?’

h) find Christian friends with the same concern; form a prayer triplet on WhatsApp to pray for each other and to remind each other to pray. Another way to look at this is that perhaps your prayer is touching the day more than you expected, it is influencing what happens and how you respond more than you realise: ponder what your day would have been like if you hadn’t prayed! Giving thanks for God’s presence in your day (even when you haven’t been able to feel it) may be more helpful than living with the self-induced guilt that you have not let him be present.

Finding Rest in difficult times

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woman sleeping on bed under blankets

Many of us have heard of the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Scripture meditation, and fasting, But what about the discipline of rest and sleep? 

What does the Bible say about rest?

When Moses becomes weary, leading his people through their trials in the desert, God tells him “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14 

Jesus tells his disciplines “Come to me all who toil and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Peter Scazzero writes in “The emotionally healthy leader”

Jesus slowed down to make sure he was in syn with God –  that he was in the father and the father was in him, powerfully filling every crevice of his body, mind and spirit. In routinely stepping away from his active work, he entrusted the outcome of his circumstances, problems and ministry to the father. 

David talks about a sense of safety that comes from a place of rest. “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for you alone, a Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8

Jesus has been speaking to me lately about the importance of rest: physical, emotional, spiritual, mental. These areas are all connected. I realize that when I become still and allow my life to rest, I feel a renewal of energy and gradual clarity of perception. 

God is inviting me to create time and space to rest in Him so that He can give me peace.

I realize that I have the tendency to be a workaholic person who often feels most alive when I am in the midst of my stress. When I focus on my fears and don’t trust God it is difficult to enter into rest.

Anxiety is caused by trying to mentally or emotionally get into things that are not here yet. I also have the tendency to always rush about things, I need to hurry up and put constantly myself under pressure.

When I feel worn down and exhausted, I ask God what kind of rest I need. 

God is the source and center of rest. I need on a regular basis time to slow down, hear God’s voice, take time for self-reflection. I want to learn to be compassionate with myself, to be able to say no so that I can enter God’s rest and be renewed. 

I know that when we do not spend enough time with God we slowly loose our peace and safety. What do I let control my rest – are these things more important than my time with God?


Our loving Father, we know that You desire good things for Your children. Through the difficulties and troubles we face, we know that You are fighting for our good. We can rest securely in Your arms, knowing that Your victory is sure and that You go with us along our way. Thank you for the promise that there is nowhere we can go apart from Your presence and for Your extravagant love. 

You designed us for rest, so we pray for Your Spirit to meet us and sustain us. Rest can be hard to find as we face our daily routine, so we ask that You would multiply every minute of rest that we have. Help us to draw from Your unending resources. We ask You to teach us how to choose rest:

Teach our minds to rest in Your truth.

Teach our hearts to rest in Your love.

Teach our bodies to rest in Your peace. 

As we rest in You, we ask that You would fill us with Your joy, life abundant, and peace. We ask that Your perfect wisdom would guide us to the right decisions. We ask that You would help us to show others that we meet the way into Your presence. 

Thank you, Lord, for Your promises and Your strong hand to lead and guide us. Please teach us Your ways and lead us into rest. We love You and the way You care for us. Amen!

Sonja Stark

The Inner Garden Programme Leader Version

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10.00Welcome, coffee, orientation in buildingAnn
10.30Introduction to the theme of the dayAnn
10.45Prayer (including stilling exercise)
We enter into silence
11.00Imaginative exercise “What does my garden look like at the moment?”Sonja
11.30Time for personal reflection “Different aspects of my garden”Sonja
12.40Feedback session
(Further item if needed – e.g. prayer to be a garden)
13.00Lunch (eaten together in silence)
13.30Centering PrayerBess
13.40Lectio Divina using Proverbs 3 5:10Ann
14.00Time for personal reflection
“What would I like to grow in my garden?”
“Where shall I find the seeds?”
Possibly also using prayer to be a garden
Group reflection “Bringing our gardens together within the gardener-ship of God”
15.30Feedback formsSonja
15.45Time to prayerfully reflect on the day
We come out of silence

Please note:  there might be slight changes of timing and content to the programme on the day itself

The Inner Garden Programme for Participants

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10.00Welcome, coffee, orientation in building
10.30Introduction to the theme of the day, and time to quieten ourselves
We enter into silence
11.00Imaginative exercise “What does my garden look like at the moment?”
11.30Personal response
12.40Feedback session
13.00Lunch (eaten together in silence)
13.30Midday Prayer
13.40Lectio Divina using Proverbs 3: 5-10
14.00Personal response
Group reflection “Bringing our gardens together within the gardner-ship of God”
15.30Feedback forms
15.45Time to prayerfully reflect on the day
We come out of silence

Please note:  there might be slight changes of timing and content to the programme on the day itself

Midday Prayer

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Except where otherwise stated, the material used is from Midday Prayer, A New Zealand Prayer Book, He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa, published by the The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia,, accessed 13 August 2021.

I am assuming the word “labours” to include all kinds of work, including what we are doing here today

Pausing at midday

O Christ our rest,

We pause amidst the labours of this day,

to remember the best reason for our labouring.

We labour, O Lord, as stewards of your creation,

and of stewards of the gifts you have apportioned to each of us

for the good of all.

Bless then the works of our hands

and minds and hearts, O God,

that they might bear fruit for your greater purposes.

May our work this day be rendered

First as service to you, that the benefits of it might be eternal.

Receive this, the offering of our labours, O Lord.


Let us be at peace within ourselves.


Let us accept that we are profoundly loved

and need never be afraid.


Let us be aware of the source of being

that is common to us all

and to all living creatures.


Let us be filled with the presence of the great compassion

towards ourselves and towards all living beings.


Realising that we are all nourished

from the same source of life,

may we so live that others be not deprived

of air, food, water, shelter, or the chance to live.


Let us pray that we ourselves cease to be

a cause of suffering to one another.


With humility let us pray for the establishment

of peace in our hearts and on earth.


May God kindle in us

the fire of love

to bring us alive

and give warmth to the world.

Lead me from death to life,

from falsehood to truth;

lead me from despair to hope,

from fear to trust;

lead me from hate to love,

from war to peace.

Let peace fill our heart,

our world, our universe.

Committing the afternoon to God

Shape our thoughts, O Lord, by your truth,

Even as you shape our hearts by your love.

Now grant us strength and grace, O God,

sufficient for the rest of the day,

that we might move through its unfolding

in humble obedience to your will,

in sensitivity to your Spirit

and in joyful expectancy of your coming kingdom.

May the light of that eternal city

Illuminate our hearts, our paths, our vision

Through these next hours, O Lord.


[1] Douglas Kaine McKelvey, Every Moment Holy, vol. 1 (Nashville TN: Rabbit Room Press, 2017), 6.

[2] Ibid., 1:8.