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:
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'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. www.lucy-mills.com
- A Story of Your Own (September 2016)
- Stepping Stones or Stumbling Stones? (July 2016)
- Using the Time You Have (April 2016)
- Resurrection Day (March 2016)
- Words in the Darkness (February 2016)
- Memories of a (Washing) Machine (January 2016)
- The God of every place (December 2015)
- A way with words (November 2015)
- Know yourself (October 2015)
- When a writer walks down a wall (September 2015)
- The power of the backstory (August 2015)
- The long way round (July 2015)
- Taming the tentacles (June 2015)
- Tracing the journey (May 2015)
- Why a bit of polish matters (April 2015)