Thursday, 27 October 2016

Writing Prayers as Resources, by Lucy Mills

A prayer is a prayer, right?

Some people don't even think that written prayers should be shared publicly; it draws too much attention to the writer. However, in this post I'm not talking about the 'praying on street corners' scenario (some feel that this has some relevance to social media, and I've talked about that here).

But there are people who are looking for prayers as resources - whether for personal use or in a public setting, for a one off or for repeated events. Or, you might include a prayer at the end of an article you've written - I sometimes do this.  Some editors/publications like this, others don't.  I always say it's an optional extra they can use if they want.

Worship resources usually contain prayers. If you're writing for a publication producing such resources, you'll need to do some shaping and honing.

So what makes a good, usable prayer for others to use?  These steps might help:

Give yourself time to reflect and pray 'on paper' yourself. Let it spill out to God.

You may have themes you have been given or chosen - reflect within these and see where they take you.

If they are written as resources, chances are the prayers may be read aloud. Try doing this - is it easy? Do the words trip easily off your tongue, or do they trip you up?

Don't use too much 'high-falutin' or  'flowery' language.  Have you gone to town with your adjectives and adverbs? Has it obscured the main meaning? Have you ended up drawing attention to your writing, rather than to God?

A prayer does not point towards the writer, so a key factor is to keep yourself as much in the background as possible! This doesn't mean you can't use personal experience, but remember that other people will have different experiences.

Don't be afraid to play with new ways of saying things.  Prayer language is as much prone to cliche as any other writing! 

A prayer is not a poem.  I say that cautiously: I myself have written poetic prayers and prayerful poems, but if you have been commissioned to write prayers, that's your aim.  It's a grey area - I've written children's prayers which rhyme!  But there is something different in how you approach it, in your attitude.  You are not showing off your poetic skills (or lack of them!) but are acting almost as a worship leader, whose job is not to point to themselves, but to the One they worship.

Editing is good thing.  Editing prayers seems like strange behaviour - but you are creating something for other people to use in their conversation with God. Why not work at it, to make it the most helpful it can be for them in this privileged act?


Lucy Mills

Lucy's first book, Forgetful Heart: remembering God in a distracted world, was published in 2014 (DLT). Undivided Heart: finding meaning and motivation in Christ will be coming in Autumn 2017. Lucy writes articles, poetry and prayers for various publications and is Editorial Co-ordinator at magnet magazine.

Lucy on Twitter: @lucymills
Lucy's Facebook page

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  1. As someone who doesn't engage in this, I found this thought-provoking. A lot of shared prayers are a bit distracting away from God and on to aspects not intended by the maker of the prayer!

  2. Great points, Lucy. I don't normally use shared prayers as a way of communicating with God for some of the reasons you outline. This has made me think of them in a new way

  3. I've been a fan of 'Crafted Prayer' ever since reading Graham Cook's book of that very name. As an artist will paint and a musician will compose, using their God-given skills to create worship and praise, so, as a writer, I use my facility with words and ideas to create a prayer which will please God and inspire worship, praise, repentance, compassion, etc. in others.