Growing up in the Baptist tradition, one learns to master the art of improvised prayer (a particularly useful skill when pop-tests come up). When I have known in advance that I would be giving a prayer, I have thought of a few phrases that call in the them of the service on a given day, but I have never written a prayer to be delivered verbatim.
At least until now.
I was called upon to give a prayer of thanksgiving following the baptism of my boyfriend. Something about the mix of solemnity and joy of the occasion calls for something more scripted - and since he will be out of the room, he wants to know what I say. I have been challenged by the very thought of what prayer is and what is appropriate for a baptism.
I have heard many people deliver beautiful scripted prayers and have envied those who could deliver them so well, but it has never been something in the scope of my experience. Now I’m discovering that writing a prayer is no easy task.
I have been working on the prayer for over a week an a few lines of poetry have emerged from time to time. I am constantly editing and the prayer may indeed be the most thoroughly revised piece of writing I have ever done. I just want it to be something special for the occasion and for my boyfriend at this such meaningful time.
What I keep questioning about the prayer: does it need to be poetic and heartfelt? Just poetic? Just heartfelt? My first inclination has been to go with just heartfelt, but public prayer is oratorical and without poetry, will it carry any resonance for the celebration of such a grand day? We are warned against vainglorious “show-off” public prayers by Jesus. Those prayers were by people calling attention to themselves and their own (false) piety. I want the prayer to be memorable for the occasion it recognizes, not for the one delivering it.
Baptism is such a sacred moment, it calls for serious consideration, but it also calls for perhaps the greatest celebration of any event practiced in the Christian church. Poetry can span both poles. Great oratory can as well. What I have come up with is a little of both.
I pray it does the duty.
Prayer for Baptistm:
God of creation
And God of re-creation
We are here, now
Solemn at the thought
of the sacrifice that cleanses
more than the water touches;
Overjoyed by the thought
of the love so generous
it heals the broken heart
Amazed at the thought
of the grace beyond deserving
that joins us to you.
Let us now rejoice!
Let us now sing!
Let us celebrate the soul, you, God of creation and God of re-creation have made new.
Join our hearts together in the journey before us - under your guidance and your will.
In the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, we pray. Amen.