Before she moved to Seattle, Mary wrote a regular column for the Port Townsend Leader. This was published there in November 2006.
For years I meant to sponsor a needy child, and just didn’t get around to signing up until two years ago. (How careless are the comfortable!) My child’s name is Jems, he lives in Indonesia, and I believe he’s Muslim. His photo is on my fridge, and my sponsoring organization sends us bright cards to sign and send to each other. So far, it’s not an intimate relationship, but I’m glad I’m doing it. I like reading the stories in World Vision magazine where successful grownups tell how their present lives got a helpful boost from sponsors many years ago.
One time the magazine had an article called "Seven Steps to Poverty." To communicate a sense of what it’s like to be poor in the developing world, WV President Rich Stearns asked us to imagine our own families losing, one by one, things we take for granted. First our clothes would go, except the ones on our backs. Then electricity, which means no appliances, or warm water, or lights. Then clean water: you have to walk a mile to the stagnant water hole. Then you lose your home. Food. Health care. The last to go is hope.
Recently, World Vision wrote about praying for the poor. I imagine you’ll be interested because Port Townsend is such a praying town: I run into people praying all over. Men I know bow their heads emphatically over their plates in front of everybody at El Sarape. Others hold hands and pray silently before dinner at home. Some of my friends are “manifesting” parking spaces and housesitters. When things go wrong they say, “I just wish I knew what the Universe has in mind.” What is all that but prayer?
What they suggested in the prayer article was that people might pray for the poor several times a day -- and that’s an Islamic idea I quite admire -- based on simple reminders.
For example, when you brush your teeth, you can say a prayer of thanks for your toothbrush or your teeth, and a prayer for those who have neither. When you lie down at night to sleep, you can say a prayer of thanks for the roof over your head and the comfortable bed, and a prayer for those who have neither. When you wash the dishes and flush the toilet and take a shower, you can say thanks for water and sewage disposal, and a prayer for those who have neither. And of course at mealtime, you can pray for the hungry.
When I was growing up, we never started any meal without an ad lib prayer. In the summer at the lake, we always do it, often clapping hands and singing, “Friends, friends, friends, thank you God for friends,” and then we add verses, substituting for “friends,” perhaps “family,” and “food,” and “frogs,” depending upon the blessings of the day.
But here in my own home, lately I wasn’t even saying thanks for the food. Partly, I was in a big hurry to eat, partly my prayers had gotten so rote. “Thank you for this food. Amen.” It got so it seemed ruder to say thanks that way than not to say it at all.
But guests always act rather pleased when I ask a blessing before dinner at my house, and Thanksgiving Day is almost here. Thus inspired by the magazine article, I decided to just sit down and write a prayer that would say what I want to say, and have it at the ready. I’d never written a prayer before for my own use, but I found it an important experience, and I like to pray it. I recommend the exercise. But in case you’re curious or you get in a rush and need a prayer at the last minute, here’s the one I wrote.
Dear God: As we gather here with friends to share this food, we remember and we lift up to you those who tonight are hungry or alone or mourning the loss of those they love. We are thankful for our many blessings. Make us generous in these our lives of such great abundance. Amen.
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