This prayer is good for helping to both broaden and get more specific in your prayers of thanksgiving.
A sheet of paper, 8 ½ x 11 or larger
A pen or pencil
I have been focusing on Prayers of Thanksgiving during the month of November. I’ve been doing this in worship with the congregations that I serve, with the classes that I teach, within my own family, and in my own prayer life. Something that I have noticed during this time is that people, myself included, tend to be thankful for very general things like food or family. For me, this has been a good place to start, but I have felt like I am often praying for the same things in a very repetitive way. In response to this repetition, I was feeling a desire to get beyond vague generalities so I could see with a little more clarity, specific things that I am thankful for. It’s good to be thankful for food and hopefully having enough of it. However, our thanks becomes transformative in our lives when we can really recognize specific blessing, offer specific thanks to God, and make closer connections with our community who supports us. For example, through a web prayer, I saw, that I am thankful for a new recipe, for squash, both of which were given to me by Ron and Clara, two farmers that I know, who raise food. Similarly, I was able to give thanks for hard work and fresh air, working in the garden, where I raise some of my own vegetables, which are food. These two things and much more came out of spending about ten minutes with a web prayer.
To begin your web prayer think of a general topic, something you would feel safe offering up, out loud, in a room full of people. Something like family and food that have already been suggested might be good places to start. Write your topic in the middle of your paper and circle it.
Next, contemplate your chosen topic and write down words that you associate with it around the original word. Circle them and draw lines to connect them.
Now, take time to contemplate these new words and repeat the process of association, writing, circling and drawing lines as many times as you wish. Notice as you pray in this way, that with each layer, you are getting more and more specific as well as discovering more and more that you have to be thankful for. Notice as well, that there may be things that come up that seem related to multiple other items. As you notice these things, feel free to draw as many lines of connection as you feel like. It may seem like it will turn into a mess, and it very well might. Know, however, that it is a Holy Mess that you are making, and it is this Holy Mess of interconnectedness that works to support and sustain you on a daily basis.
Have fun with this prayer and enjoy what it reveals to you. My prayer for you is that you will revel in your blessings.
For further reflection:
What surprised you the most that you are thankful for?
Are there things that could have fit in multiple categories? Why do you think they came up when you were contemplating one word verses another (unconscious), or why did you consciously choose to put them in the category you did?
Were there things that it was hard to be thankful for, or that you thought about but didn’t or couldn’t bring yourself to write down?
Who came up in your prayer that you would like to thank in person?
This prayer could easily be turned into a group prayer using a large whiteboard or post-it notes on a wall. The leader could begin with a general topic, and invite group members to say out loud or silently come up and write or place post its that they associate with that topic. Work in rounds with the group as the layers are filled out.
To slow down, and engage your more creative side, calligraphy pens and techniques could be applied to the writing of the words. You could also try using doodles instead of words.
Tell us how you’ve used this prayer in the comments below.
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Patrick Sipes is the founder and director of The Forming Spirit. You can learn more about him here.