An Alphabet of Prayer

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

The Reverend Dr. Katie Snipes Lancaster

Gospel: Sometimes I have to complain my way into believing something. The other day, Christine Hides and I were preparing to lead worship, and communion was on the docket. On days when we serve communion, in lieu of a pastoral prayer, we have a longer prayer over the sacrament. I was complaining that the formal historic prayers over communion were sooooo loooong and are basically a bible history lesson (you can see an example in this document on page 126). The text of the prayer follows the biblical narrative from creation to the prophets, from God’s hope for humanity to our constant failing to do what is right, all the way through God’s grace in sending us Jesus whose life, death, resurrection, and abiding presence are a perpetual gift to us today. I whined to Christine, “prayer isn’t supposed to be a history lesson, it’s supposed to be a time to talk to God.”

But it didn’t take me long to reconsider. It was almost as if complaining out loud forced me to remember all the times I’d heard that long unfolding narrative of God’s love for us. Those story-prayers have formed my faith. Over and over again, we retell the story of God’s good news: euangelion (Greek) evangelium (Latin) god-spel (Old English), gospel. We are good-news people. We are a storytelling faith. Our classic prayers trace the trajectory of God’s ancient song of salvation because it is by its retelling that we hear again God’s good news for us today.

We might voice the story thousands of ways. I love the language used by Thom Schuman in his “Lectionary Liturgies” to proclaim the same story week after week. In the telling and retelling, our lives become entangled in the gospel, and we can see God at work in today’s worries and woes, gifts and gratitudes, the Spirit reflected back to us through our ancient narrative. We are a storytelling faith, and so God’s story gets woven into our prayers (even when it’s a long story, it’s one worth telling).

In that way gospel is prayer.

Praying the Alphabet
The gift of love is scattered across the galaxy.
We are grateful that you gather us in,
generation after generation, your generosity granted.
Guide us. Grow within us. Give us your glory,
the glitter and glint of grace in our midst.

February 8, 2022

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