As part of our series on the lessons of Mister Rogers, we took this past Sunday to pray for our neighbors. We divided up into teams to pray for all the families in our village and school district. Four teams walked different routes through the village as we prayed for the families in the homes we passed, while others prayed over maps of the other parts of the school district. We ended the morning with a potluck back at the church.
It was a holy and Spirit-filled morning of worship! You can watch a recap video of the day here: https://youtu.be/IPaYKZBEnUQ
We used prayer sheets to guide the walkers and map-prayers. I took screen shots from Google maps and printed them so that every part of our school district got prayed over and then each walking group and each person praying over a map got a prayer guide. You can download the each version of the prayer guide here:
Prayer Walk Instructions and Prayers
Praying Over Maps – Instructions and Prayers
These are the instructions I shared during a shortened worship service before the walk:
“This idea has been done before in other neighborhoods and it was inspired for me
by Rev. Martha Grace Reese author of Unbinding the Soul. Her advice for doing a prayer walk is to first, ‘Ask God, which route you should take today.’ There are going to be 4 walking routes through the village. We also have maps here of the rest of the parts of the district and written prayers and instructions for people to pray over the outlying areas. So be in prayer about which of these options God is leading you towards today. And as you walk or trace the streets on a map, ‘Pray for each of the houses and schools, the families and visitors. If you’re walking some pray for the right side of the street others pray for the left. Walk quietly together and “think” your prayer to God. You might ask Jesus to walk through the neighborhood with you. (He’s already doing it but asking may help you to realize it!) Pray for God’s presence, peace, and protection to blanket the area. Pray that the neighborhood will be infused with Christ’s presence. If people come out and talk with you, you could mention that you’re from WPUMC on Collins St. and that you’re doing a prayer walk around the neighborhood. Ask them if there’s anything specific they’d like you to pray for.’ If you talk with anyone be sure to invite them to join us for lunch around 11! And if they come be sure to sit with them and get to know them.
If while walking, you see an opportunity to bless someone, do it! (Wave, smile, help someone unload their groceries, etc. When we’re done, come back here for the potluck! Sit with different people than the ones you walked with and talk about how you experienced the time and the prayer. What did you see or notice that you hadn’t before? Any God sightings?”
Our hope is that every church will intentionally pray for all the families in their neighborhood on a regular basis. Hope these resources help your church reach out in prayer.
As August draws to a close, we’re preparing for fall and the start of a new school year! I’m excited to be including a backpack blessing in our worship service this year. Either the Sunday before or after the schools in your area start back up, invite students, teachers, and educators of all kinds to bring their bag to church to receive a blessing. We even made buttons for everyone’s bags that say “You are loved!” I’m planning to do this for our Children’s Time that Sunday.
Here’s the responsive liturgy and prayer we’ll be using to bless our backpacks this year:
One: As we begin this new school year, we give thanks that God has given us all the ability to learn many things in many ways.
Adults: We learn in school, and also in church, in our family,
in our community, and in the world.
Kids: Learning is a gift from God.
One: We ask God’s blessing on this new school year, that it may be a time when we appreciate and fully engage God’s gift of learning.
Adults: We ask God to bless our schools and teachers.
Kids: We ask God to bless our classmates and friends.
Adults: We ask God to bless our principals, counselors, and librarians.
One: We ask God to bless those who prepare our lunches, those who drive us to school, and those who keep our schools clean and safe.
Adults: We give thanks to God for books and computers and all the tools that help
Kids: We give thanks to God for the gift of learning!
One: Let us pray.. Loving God, sometimes a new school year seems exciting or scary or both. Sometimes school is great, and sometimes it’s hard. But we know that whether we are excited or scared, you are with us. We know that whether school is great or hard, you are with us. Thank you for always being with us. Help us remember we are loved no matter what. Help us do our best and help us show others your love in all we say and do each day. AMEN
Here’s the invite we’ve been sharing in our community. This one has space for you to add in the date and time of your backpack blessing. And don’t forget to put your church name, address, and website along the bottom!
Here is the unison prayer for illumination we’ll be using for our Overwhelmed sermon series:
God of all, open our hearts and minds to find your Truth in all places. Teach us your unforced rhythms of grace that our lives might reflect your Wisdom. With Christ as our guide we live and pray. AMEN
And here is the image I made for us to use on our bulletin covers:
Here is the prayer for illumination we’ll be using for the series we’re doing based on Robert Schnase’s book The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. It references John 15:1-8 which is the theme scripture I’m using for this series.
Prayer for Illumination
God of love, plant us in the soil of your grace. Nurture us in the Truth of your Word, the vine of everlasting life. Enlighten us with the wisdom of your Spirit, which flows through us today and all days. Abiding in Christ we pray. AMEN
Unison prayer said before the scripture reading(s) during Lent
Un-stop our ears, God. Help us hear Christ speaking your Truth so it will guide our lives and change our hearts. Teach us that we may follow you more faithfully each day. AMEN
General unison prayers said before the scripture reading(s).
God, open our hearts and minds so we can fully receive the Truth you need to hear today. Kindle your Truth in our hearts so others would see it revealed through our lives. Following Christ we pray. AMEN.
God of life, open us now to receive your dream for our lives and your Truth for our world, so we can follow your path and show others the way. United in Christ we pray. AMEN
God, in you are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Open our hearts to receive the truth of your Word. Help us understand and freely choose the way of your wisdom; in Christ’s way we pray. Amen.