A Prayer in My Pocket

When I was serving as an Associate Minister, the Senior Minister at that church once put me on the spot. He was asked to lead prayer at an interfaith gathering and responded saying he was not good at extemporaneous prayer but that “Douglas always has a prayer in his back pocket.” I always felt this was more than my colleague ‘passing the buck.’ It was a sincere compliment. Over the years, however, I had not imagined it to be literally true until recently.

A few months ago, I put on my brown sports jacket and noticed a paper folded up in the breast pocket. It was a prayer I had written and delivered for the vigil held last June for the shooting that had happened at The Pulse in Orlando FL. I must have tucked it into my jacket after speaking and forgotten it was there for half a year. “Shall we talk about homophobia and finding safe spaces? Do we bring up the need for better gun control laws? Can we talk about Islamophobia and about vulnerable communities being pitted against each other? O Spirit of Life and Love, can we simply talk about how much this hurts? Again?”

In my black suit coat pocket, I found the prayer I had written and delivered a year before the Pulse shooting; a prayer for the June 2015 shooting at Emanuel AME church in Charleston, SC. “We pray in solidarity with all those who have been touched by violence while seeking a community of support. May we learn, O Spirit, to be tender and gentle with the broken places in our lives and in the lives of our neighbors near and far.”

In another suit, I found the prayer I wrote for the December 4th vigil in support of Standing Rock. “In this silent moment let us cry out for the suffering of our world.  In particular we cry out for the land and the water that is threatened in Cannonball ND; for the American Indians usually forgotten on the margins; for all those who suffer at the hands of police militarization and corporate greed. Oh, Spirit of life and of love, hear our cry.”

In the back pocket of my brief case, I found the prayer I wrote for the 15th anniversary 9/11 vigil held at the mosque. “Let us set aside hate, and devote our lives to the ways of peace and justice.  Let us, O Spirit, encourage peace to grow in any garden it can find. Let us remember the tragedies of our days and commit to building a better world. Let us be emissaries of justice, ambassadors of compassion, agents of thee, O Spirit”

I am someone who always has a prayer in my pocket. Sometimes it is not a piece of paper from a vigil. Sometimes it is a stone, a piece of sea glass, or a slip of paper with the word “humility.” I once discovered tobacco in my pocket: tobacco from the prayer offering at the sacred fire in Oceti Sakowin camp. Again and again, I find these prayers in my pocket. And so, part of my work is to take in the pain and turmoil, to take in what is broken and then turn it back out into the world transformed as blessings. May peace prevail on Earth. May I do my part to bring peace.