Opening Prayers

                For better or worse, I refer to the beginning prayer of worship as an "Opening Prayer" rather than as the more traditional "Invocation." Indeed, in worship we do "call" upon the Lord, we lift up our "voices" to God - which is what "invocation" means. However, we shouldn't be tempted to believe that our efforts invoke, conjure up, or bring about God's presence. The truth is - "I am with you always, even to the end of the age;" (Matthew 28:20) "I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me;" (Revelation 3:20)  The voice of Christ is calling us. He is knocking upon our door.
                In worship, we are the ones who are invoked, the ones who respond to that call, that knock to open our door and greet the awesome presence of God. Thus the phrase, "Opening Prayer," has a double meaning. Pragmatically, it is the prayer that begins or opens worship. In this moment, however, we are awakening to God, opening our "door," our "selves," our very lives to the One who is with us always. One of my mentors, the late Rev. E. Paul Weaver, referred to this as the "Prayer for the Awareness of God's Presence." Whatever terms we use, that is what we mean.
                Confession is a part of worship. In higher church liturgy it usually has its own separate space towards the beginning of the service, as a unison or responsive reading followed by an assurance of pardon. An opening prayer can function, also, in this capacity - leading God's people to welcome the Lord into our lives, as we are, not as some pipe-dream of who we think we are. 
                Below is an ever-increasing collection of Opening Prayers written by me over the years (unless otherwise noted). Some may have been pulled from other sources. Like many ministers, my record keeping has not always been the best. If you find one here which should be attributed to someone else, please let me know and I will do so. Feel free to borrow - "for the glory of God and my neighbor's good."

Pete Haynes, pastor
Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren

See also:

Worship Resources

Prayers for
Special Occasions

Offering Resources

Scripture Sentences

                Each resource on this page has been bookmarked. To link to a particular prayer use the designation at the beginning of it, without the parenthesis, with a #. Thus, the first prayer would be bookmarked as:
                Dates at the end of an entry are when they have been used at this church, according to records not kept until Oct., 2000. All have been part of worship here, though when they were written or first used may go back as far as 1990 (my first computer files).

O God, our resurrection & life, the promise of your new life in Christ is like a breath of fresh air in a dry & thirsty land. We have gathered as believers, & as those who are honestly seeking the truth. Guide our worship this hour.

O God who makes all things new, speak to us as whole people today. May your truth touch not just our intellects, but also our deeper yearnings of heart & soul. We bring with us our daily concerns, as well as our more eternal questions. May your new creation in us shed light upon our everyday walk.

O God who fed the multitudes with but a few loaves & some fish, feed us now with the abundance of what you freely offer, that we might overflow with your goodness right where we live. All this we pray in the name of, & because of, Jesus our Christ. Amen.      (4/25/04)

        O God who is greater than the most powerful forces in this world, enable us to be still & know that you are God.
        O Lord who answers out of the whirlwind of everyday life, breathe in us your Holy Spirit to strengthen, comfort, & guide us in the midst of the storm.
     O still, small voice, speak to us this hour, that we might become makers of your peace in our homes, in our communities, in our world.
        We pray all this in the name of the One who calmed the raging sea.        Amen.

        O God, we trust in your power to create, to sustain, to enable. But we could not trust if we did not know that you are always near. Be with us, Lord, as we are gathered here to worship you. Help us not to check our minds or our hearts at the door, but enable us to bring all that we are to you, so that we might experience your touch upon all aspects of our life. We pray this because of, and in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.        (1/14/01)

        O God, we trust in your power, even as it is often found in weakness; in your wisdom, even as it is expressed in seeming foolishness; in your wholeness, even as it comes to us amid brokenness. We do not ask this day for dazzling displays of strength, electric exercises of intellectual prowess, or marvelous manifestations of miracles. We come simply to worship you. Touch us this day, O Lord, sinners that we are, that we might become your saints, your body, your children, your church. For this Temple of your Spirit is built not upon our own abilities, knowledge, or restorative skill, but upon you, in Jesus Christ. Amen.        (10/10/04)

Gentle...yet powerful.
Lowly...yet almighty.
Shepherd...yet King.
     In your gentleness, guide us.
     In your power, strengthen us.
     In your lowliness, strip from us our selfish pride which only destroys us.
     In your greatness, lift us up that we might aspire to greater things.
             As a shepherd, call us to be your servants.
             As a King, call us to be your royal priesthood.
                     O God, who is our shepherd and our King;
                     O Christ, who was crucified and is now risen from the dead;
                     O Spirit, who comforts and empowers;
                     O great One in Three, Holy Trinity, this hour, set us free to worship. Amen.

        Gentle Shepherd ... King of Love,
we come to you as we are, not as we pretend to be. The truth is, God, that when we lift our heads above our path, we all too often discover ourselves lost in a maze of choices. We confess from the very beginning of this worship that we are lost... Were it not for you, O great seeker of our souls, patient parent to our childhood, joyful host to our homecoming; Were it not for you, O Lord, we would be lost forever. But, because of you, there is room for us at the great Love Feast. Gentle Shepherd ... King of Love, seek and find us as we are, not as we pretend. Be patient with us, and teach us how to wait. May the echoes of your celebration reverberate in our midst this hour, transforming our worship from a mournful plea to a joyful song. Gentle Shepherd ... King of Love, lead us. Amen.        (variation 4/29/12)

        Light of Christ, awaken us this hour to the glory of your presence in our midst. Shine among us in such a way that the darkness without and within may be pushed back, such that we might truly see what is really real. Help us to recognize our sin for what it is. Enable us to behold the world as you created it to be, as you created us to be. Empower us to move from darkness to light, from sin to new life. May your light within us shine through into worship this day, as all days. This we pray in the name of the Word made flesh, the light which is the light of all people. Jesus Christ. Amen.          (2/25/01, 1/12/02, 7/22/07)

        O Holy God, like Isaiah the prophet we stand in awe of your glory, feeling tremendously small and polluted by our sin, and the sin of our society. Even so, you touch us with your burning presence, and we are made clean and whole. O God, our Creator, continue to build this household of faith into what you want us to be. O Christ, our Savior, lead us to do as you will. O Spirit, our Power, strengthen us for the work of the Kingdom, a worship and a service which is ours today as well as tomorrow. O Blessed Trinity, fill this place and these people with your presence. For yours is the Power, and the Salvation, and the Creation, now and always. Amen.     (6/6/04)

        O God from whom every gift derives, we gather to worship you this day. You are an awesome God, greater than our comprehension or our imagination. You are beyond any word we could ever use to describe you. And yet, through Jesus, we know the intimacy of your vast Love.
     We have come to you in thanksgiving and praise, to know that you are God and to place our lives anew into your perspective. Enlarge our vision this hour with your Word. Instill in us, again, your hope in place of our despair, your peace where our hatred threatens, your joy amidst our depression, your love overwhelming our apathy.
     May your Holy Spirit surround and indwell this congregation now, and forevermore. In Jesus we pray. Amen.

        Eternal God, our Alpha and Omega, our beginning and our end, we have gathered in this time and at this place to worship you. In your time, you created all things, and wove into their fabric a yearning for fulfillment in you. It is this yearning within us which has pulled us here this morning. Take these moments, O Lord of time and space, and complete them in us, through your Holy Spirit. May our labor bring forth a new creation in you. This is your hour, Christ Jesus, help us to make the most of each precious moment. For in your name we have gathered, and we pray. Amen.    (5/5/02, 7/3/05)

        Like Elijah, O God, we turn and face you in the midst of the storm. Help us this hour to hear you speak to us - not in the wind, or the thunder, nor even in the upheaval of the ground beneath us. Help us to hear you speak to us, in our heart of hearts, as that still, small voice amidst the maelstrom, which gives us direction, and peace, and hope. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

O God, music is the food of our souls ... but not all are musically inclined.
     We long to sing of you with the greatest of melodies,
                                                 the sweetest of tunes,
                                                 the grandest of rhythms,
                                                 the purest of pitches,
                                                 the fullest of sounds.
             We aspire for excellence in our praise, to be worthy of your greatness ...
                     Well, perhaps our goals are a bit high ...
                             Do you suppose you could lend a few angels from your heavenly choir?
                                     "O for a thousand tongues to sing!"
                                             One just doesn't seem to be enough.
                                                        One tongue to sing;
                                                         One set of ears to hear;
                                                         One pair of arms to break free;
                                                         One heart to rejoice.
                                             One just doesn't seem enough.

                                        "O for a thousand ...", a million.
     Hear our longing, O God.
             We are not just tongues, or ears, or arms, or hearts.
             We are whole persons, not just the sum of our many parts,
                     some of which work better than others.
             We are whole persons who long to worship you with everything we've got;
                                                       for you are the source of everything we've got, great and small.
                             For the wholeness which you give us in the midst of our imperfection -
                                     our ability to be fully human, for this we are thankful,
                                             and our praise represents our thankfulness,
                                                                                    our longing for more of you in our common life.
        Hear now our praise, "O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing"

        O God, who is here - in this place, now - in our midst; Empower us to praise you, not with words and actions which come from outside of us, but from within us; Dwell in us more fully that we may sing to you with all our being; Fill us with a sense of your joy, that we might actually delight in your worship; Focus us upon your self-giving Love, which is above every love we have ever known, the source of all.
     O God, who is here - in this place, now - in our midst; Make your love real here and now, through Jesus Christ. Amen.

        O God, the joy of this day, the hope for every day to come, Move in our midst, fill us with your Spirit, and make us one. May our words, as well as our actions, and even the secret thoughts of our hearts, be a part of your worship this hour, O Lord of great power, displayed in sacrificial love. For we pray focused upon the One who died for all, your only begotten son. Amen.

        "Get out of bed, sleepy head," we heard a voice say: an alarm clock, a mother or father, a husband or wife, an excited child. "Eat breakfast," "get dressed," "hurry up - let's go", the voices prodded us, Lord. And so, we are here. But are we really? Wake us up, God. Really! WAKE US UP!
     So often we begin worship by asking for you to be here. But we are the ones who need the prodding. Prod us, Lord! Tickle us awake with your Spirit! Make us alive in Christ! Help us to be aware that you are here with us, now!
     You have crowned us with your presence. May we this hour crown you, glorify you with lives that are lived for you.
                         In Jesus, we pray. Amen.

(b-7)            confessional:
        The Life you give us in Christ is so very real, God. Who are we to receive such goodness? Yes, we have come to church today, but we confess that we have not been all that faithful throughout the past week.
     There were moments when we acted in love. But more often our actions were powered by other motives. Forgive us. Help us to forgive ourselves.
     We did remember you upon occasion, but too easily we forgot you amid the daily grind. Forgive us. Help us to live in you.
     Every now and then an "Amen" did come out of us in word or action. But like the father who came to Jesus with his dying son, we more often cried out: "I believe; help my unbelief!" Forgive us. Empower us with your Spirit.
     Who are we to profess the life you freely give? Who are we to claim your daily goodness? Who are we to receive your healing presence?....
     Thank you, Father God, for your forgiveness.
     Thank you, Christ Jesus, for your Life.
     Thank you, Holy Spirit, for your power.
                We open ourselves to you, anew ... today. Live now in us, we pray. In Jesus name. Amen.

(b-8)            CALL TO WORSHIP AND PRAYER  (uses 2 leaders)

2 - Please stand, ready to worship God.
1 - Listen! Do you hear?
2 - Listen! Are you alive to what God has created around you?
1 - Look! Have you beheld the wonder of God's Creation?
2 - Look! Do you see the wonder of God's presence around us?
1 - Wait! "Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him."
2 - Wait! "Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength."
1 - Come! "Come to me all who labor & are heavy burdened, & I shall give you rest."
2 - Come! "Let the children come to me, and do not stop them, for it
is to such as these that the Kingdom of heaven belongs."
1 - Pray! "Pray without ceasing."
2 - Pray! "Lord, teach us how to pray."
1 & 2 & congregation - "Our Father, who art in heaven ..." (etc.)

        You are such a gracious host, Lord God of all creation. Who are we to receive such goodness? You prepare a table for us, amidst our daily struggles, our successes and failures, even in the presence of our enemies. You anoint us, wash us, feed us. You do all this.
     We confess that we tend to see our daily bread solely in terms of our own handiwork. But we are not self-sufficient. We need you. Forgive us. We need these brothers and sisters in Christ around us. Empower us.
     Shower us with your "holy manna" that we might be strengthened for the journey to which you have called us. By faith we stand and worship. By faith we walk and work. By faith we profess that your Christ is alive, and that your spirit moves us to be and to do more than we ever thought possible.
     We pray all this in the name of the One who said "I am the bread of life." Amen.

        You are here, Lord, in this place. Now. Not only do we stand in awe of how great you are, larger than our imagination; But we also can scarcely comprehend that you are with us this moment. Yes, from a distance you are watching us. But you stand beside us as well. Your Spirit's presence quickens our pulse, fills us with wonder when we become aware than you are near. In extra-ordinary, as well as common, every-day ways, you make your presence known to us. This is your time of worship, God. The words don't belong to the Pastor or myself. The music isn't the property of the organist. The praying and singing we all do comes not only from us but, most importantly, from you.  When we lose sight of this, today as well as every day, O Lord, forgive us, and live in and through us. Do great things with us right now, and in the week which lies ahead. We pray this, our heavenly Father, in the name of your Son - Jesus Christ, in the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.            (5/26/02)

        Holy God, make your presence known to us today. We come to you as we are, called to be saints, holy ones, but so often less than our calling. Help us this hour to let go of those sins to which we cling. Help us to know that our self-worth does not depend so much on our ability to hold on to our lives, as on your power to release ourselves into your hands.
     Holy God, make your presence known to us today. We come to you with our vision so often clouded by our sin. Clear away the mist, through Jesus, that we can catch a glimpse, now, of your presence here. Help us to behold you as you are, not as we would like you to be. In Him, through whom we become holy, on the wings of the Spirit, we pray to you, our Father. Amen.                                                     (10/6/02, 11/1/09)

        O God of the still, small voice quiet our inner spirit. Help us to focus upon you, and you alone, to hear your voice within. There are so many other voices demanding our attention. But we cannot attend to them without you.... "Be still and know that I am God," you say to us as you said to Elijah.... May your voice speak through us. In weakness, be our strength. In poverty, be our wealth. In depression, be our joy. In apathy, be our love. We cannot sing Love's song, O Lord, unless it be your voice singing in us. Take this heart, and with this mouth make your praise and thanksgiving a reality here and now. Because of, and in the name of our Messiah, Jesus. Amen.

        Creator and Ruler of the Earth, we lift up our voices, our eyes, our hearts, our lives to you in praise. Make us your alleluia people. Uphold the weary, for whom praise may be very difficult. Humble the strong, for whom "alleluia" may be too easy. Creator and Ruler of the Earth, continue to form us into your new creation, that we might welcome you to more fully become the ruler of our hearts and minds. Through him who came as a servant, and who now reigns over all creation, Jesus, our Christ. Amen.                            (10/21/01, 8/14/05, 11/12/06)

        O God, whose holiness is not limited to grand cathedrals or saintly persons, spectacular mountains or mountain-moving leaders; O God, whose holiness is often discovered in simple everyday places and simple everyday folks, plant your holiness in this place, in us now. Grow us this hour, that we might flower, right where we are, with the beauty of your holiness. Through Jesus we pray. Amen.                        (2/4/01)

        O God, who gives to those who ask, provide for each of us in your way, a special gift to be used for your glory, and for the good of our neighbors. O God, who reveals to those who seek, show us this day what these gifts are, and how they may be used. O God, who opens to those who knock, help us to step forward, now, into your gracious presence, knowing that we are each and all blessed with something special to share. One more thing, Lord, stir us up, so that we don't become too self-satisfied, and forget to keep asking, and seeking, and knocking. We pray all this in the name of the One who asks for the voiceless, who seeks out the lost, who stands at the door and knocks. Come in, Lord Jesus. Amen.

        Most Gracious God, hallowed be your name, help us to honor your name in what we say and what we do, this hour in our worship, this week in our work. May your gracious presence surround us this day, so that obedience to your Word becomes a joy rather than a burden. May the depth of your Grace, the width of your Love, the height of your Joy, inspire us, here and now, to more fully be your people, folks known not by forced friendliness, but by gracious goodwill. We look to you for this, God, because, on our own, we are tempted to be just the opposite. Empower us with your Spirit, we pray in Jesus name. Amen.   (7/11/04)

        O God who watches over all of creation, you are far greater than our ability to understand. How do you do it? From where do you do it? Jesus taught us to pray, "Our Father who art in heaven." What a mouthful, Lord! On the one hand you are as close as a loving parent. But on the other hand, you watch from a distance.
     O God who is beyond our reasoning, accept us as we are. Take our faith as it is, and move us to higher places. Teach us the truth, that we might be able to call on you in truth, where you are, and not just where we want you to be.
     O God who is both compassion and power, receive from us this hour all the praise, the thanksgiving, the love we are able to return to you. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.           (3/30/03)

        Eternal God, whose signature we see, if we dare to look, in the creation of the universe, help us this hour to look and to listen for your handwriting and your voice in this place, among these people. Connect our temporary praise to your timeless rhythms, your ageless melodies, your everlasting joyful noise. Guide us now to focus upon you, knowing that in you our distractions become new possibilities for action. Breathe life into our singing, our praying, our speaking, our listening, our touching, that all these activities might become more than they are. In our worship we reach out to you, O God, knowing that you have already enfolded us in your arms. Thank you. In Jesus, we pray. Amen.      (9/15/02, 10/8/06)

        Lord God, words are not enough to express your awesomeness, your majesty, your holiness. Our highest expressions of theology are but baby talk next to you: your creation, your very self. Make us aware, through your Holy Spirit, that you are here among us. May this awareness lead us to approach this hour more carefully. The words we speak, the tunes we sing, the thoughts we think, the joy and sadness we feel, may these be pleasing to you. For in spite of the inadequacy of our words, this worship is addressed to you. Make it complete, whole, full to overflowing, O God, our rock, and our redeemer. In Christ we pray. Amen.                            (7/15/01, 10/2/05)

        "Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give them will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life." (John 4:14)
     "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." (John 6:35)
     "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." (Matthew 5:6)

        O God of living water, O bread of life; We are hungry. We are thirsty. Our prosperity, though, masks these deepest needs. Quench our thirst now, that our lips might sing your praise. Fill our emptiness now, that our lives might show your love. "Cast your bread upon the waters" of this place. (Ecclesiastes 11:1)  Let your waters "break forth in (our) wilderness, (your) streams in (our) desert." (Isaiah 35:6b) Create an oasis here and now in us, where the hungry and thirsty might come and receive, a channel that might carry your living water where it is needed. Flow in and through us this hour. This we pray, in the name of the One whose love is expressed in bread and wine. Amen.

        O God, powerful and loving, we look to you for both strength and compassion. We confess that we don't really understand power, nor - when it comes down to it - are we very good at love. Very easily we go to extremes: too hard or too soft. Teach us your tough love. Sharpen us this hour on the whetstone of your Word. With the tender arms of your Spirit, embrace us. O powerful and loving God, fashion us to become tough and tender disciples. We worship you now because we know of no other like you. In the name of Jesus, your beloved Son, our leader and friend, we pray. Amen.

(d-4)                                                    (used with "A Mighty Fortress")
     O God, our refuge, our strength, our help; you are the bedrock upon which our lives are built, the mighty fortress which surrounds and protects. Though the earth should change, the mountains shake, the waters rise, we will not fear. Help us, O Lord, to live fearlessly amidst the storm. But in so doing, guide us as followers of the prince of peace, the servant king, away from a fortress mentality, where outsiders are enemies, toward a Kingdom where Love is the final word. On bended knee we sing praise to the One you have exalted, the lamb who was slain for our sin. May the doors of this mighty fortress open wide this hour, that the music of the Kingdom may resound through this valley and into our hearts, our homes, our communities, our world. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.          (3/7/04)

        O God, whose glory is found not just on majestic thrones far beyond our reach, but also amid the imperfection of the human family; help us to approach this hour, this day, and thus every day this week, as a gift from you, full of glorious possibilities, as well as holy expectations. This does not come naturally, Lord. Our temptation is to be so "realistic", or so lost in the clouds, that we miss your kingdom coming on earth, even as it is in heaven. It is often in the simplest of ways, in the middle of situations for which a sigh is our only response, that your glory becomes a reality. Come, Holy Spirit, help us to see and worship, to trust and live, starting right now! In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen. (6/11/06)

        Yes, Lord, teach us to wait. You are eternal. In you we find freedom from the tyranny of time. You have given us the minutes and hours of our days not to enslave us, but to give order. Help us to use this hour wisely, to wait, and experience your nearness. Only in returning and rest are we saved, in quietness and trust are we strengthened. (pause)
     Yes, Lord, teach us to wait. Only then can we learn to fly with the eagles. Only then can we sing your song of freedom. In Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

        We thank you for this new day, God. Confession time: ... we're not very good at giving thanks. We tend to be takers more than givers. You give us so much, only we get so turned around that we can't see what you provide for us, each and every day. We get so lost in the struggle to make ends meet, that "meat", and what it takes to buy it, becomes our end. Forgive us, Lord, and free us. Open us to your simple gifts, that we might be able to turn right side around; that we might, in fact, find delight in turning; that we might enjoy simply giving. Today is a day for turning, O God, a new day, your day of rest and renewal. Bow us, bend us, turn us this hour, so that these words become the song of our heart, mind, & soul: "May Jesus Christ be praised!" Amen.

        "Thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: 'In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.'" (Isaiah 30:15)
     For those turning toward home, You are Lord, leading every step of the way. For those needing rest in the wilderness, You are God, making all things new. For those seeking quiet amidst the storm, You are Holy, speaking in a whisper. For those still learning how to trust, You are One, drawing closer to your heart. Lord God, Holy One of Israel, Lead us, Renew us, Speak to us, Your will be done in us, Enough for today. Now. We pray to you as children to their Daddy, like Jesus taught us. In his name, Amen.

        O God, whose Word is not just a one-way conversation, talk with us, today, and hear us as we pray. Free us, that we might listen for your voice, and empower us to speak to you. For in Christ Jesus, you have called us into a friendship which influences all other relationships. Help us to see beauty where we might be tempted to see ugliness, in ourselves, as well as in others. May your "joy" be found there as well. As you have washed our feet in Christ, kneel us to washing your feet in others. As you have lifted us off our knees, help us to lift others up. Four we all were created in your image. Re-create in us, just now, a new heart, O God, one that beats in tune with your own. This we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

        Holy God, you have revealed yourself to us in a trinity of ways: as our powerful Creator, our dying Savior, and our comforting Spirit. But we also know you as a loving parent; a risen Lord; and a dynamic breath of fresh air. We're never really sure of how you are able to be all these things to us, but you are. And we praise you. You are an awesome God, limited only by our ability to understand. Inhabit our worship this hour. Teach us the grace of placing our limitations within the wonder of your unlimited hands. In Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.        (6/10/01, 10/14/01, 1/9/05, 4.22/07, adapted for 2/20/11)

        O God, we are gathered here under the shelter of your wings, nurtured by your motherly love,
and encouraged, then, to fly by faith on the wind of your spirit. You have spoken to us, saying "They that wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles." Teach us how to wait, then, that we may learn how to fly. May this nest we call "family" be built with sturdy materials. Don't let us forget, though, that this nest was not created as a fortress behind which to hide, but as a perch from which to take off. And strengthen us with the assurance that we do not fly alone. This we pray, in Jesus' name. Amen.

        Thank you, Lord, for the song you've planted in us, a melody which rings out no matter what our circumstances may be. Some of us here today need your strength, for our voices are barely heard above the noise of our problems. Others of us require your leading, for in the confusion of life we are losing our sense of direction. Some need your word of caution concerning roads we are hell-bent on traveling. Others could use your encouragement as we walk the path you have opened for us. When we sing our praise, Lord, in the same breath we are asking you to move amid our problems, our confusion, our mistakes, as well as the good we do, and make your praise a part of our daily life. Help us to rejoice and be glad. In the name of Christ, our joy. Amen.              (6/2/02, 3/6/05, 9/2/07)

                                                (used with Exodus 15:11,13,17-18)
     Come, Holy Spirit of God, and blow open the waters of this congregation. Lead us forward this day, O Jesus, pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Plant us on your holy ground, O God of the burning bush, such that we cannot help but take off our shoes. We have come to worship you, in Jesus' name. Amen.

(e-4)                                            Responsive Prayer

One: O God, you have planted in us a yearning for "home". With the psalmist we cry,
All: "Happy are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion,"
One: knowing that this highway is not so much a line on a map, as a space within.
All: We are on a journey, Lord. Together we are traveling home. You beckon us onward.
One: You are not just out there, though. You are here, blessing us all along the Way.
All: Thanks for the green pastures and still waters of your hospitality, our Shepherd.
One: In the dark places through which we walk, facing various enemies, we are grateful:
All: for your direction, your protection, your hearty food, your welcoming hand.
One: As we journey home, give us the breath to sing our songs of Zion.
All: And help us to march to the beat of a different drummer. In Jesus name. Amen.

        There is no way that we can really bless you, O God, no way that we can truly become a blessing to others, without your blessing first becoming a part of us. Behind the scenes you are at work, O Lord, blessing this world. For the wrong, of which we are so often a part, we deserve your curse. But you bless us, instead. Thank you!
     We ask your blessing, your active presence among us today. Work in us and through us. Allow us to see the evidence of your involvement. O bless the Lord. May all that is within us bless your holy name. In Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

        O Lord, we are like workers in a field, reaping the harvest of your Word. Keep us faithful, today, to the work of worship. May your Spirit move in our midst, waking us up when we are tired, opening our eyes to the goodness you spread before us, strengthening our hand to cut through the stalk and get to the grain which provides our spiritual bread. In so doing, feed us. As you do so, however, remind us of those who are still hungry, needing the taste of what you so richly provide. Do not satisfy us so much that we fail to reach out to them. For in reality, we are all poor. And yet, "blessed are the poor," you said in Jesus, "for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven; blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted; blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled..." In you, we are rich. Receive, now, the offering of our worship: the gifts we bring from your field, the songs we sing from your Spirit, the words we say from our heart.
Increase the harvest, O Lord. This we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.                       (6/16/02)

        Immortal God, as we witness the stunning change in seasons, we realize that all of life reflects your creative power. Invisible God, as we search for your love in a violent world, we realize that you have shown us your silent power in grieving women, like Ruth and Naomi, in a baby born away from his home village, in today's humble believers in foreign lands. Wise God, as we listen for direction in our lives, we understand that you are present and speaking in this time of worship. Great  God, we praise your continued desire to lead your people to servant lives of joy and sharing - lives directed by the example of your Son, Jesus Christ, and works guided by the power of your Holy Spirit. O help us to see and feel this power this holy morning.  
     (written by Jean Sack. refers to hymn: "Immortal, invisible, God only wise")

        God, you have been at work in this world, from that first day of Creation up until today. So many lives, down through the centuries, have been shaped by your hand. People going beyond the possible, walking by faith and thus changing the course of history, in ways large or small. We call them saints. But it was you behind them all. You are an awesome God!
     We confess, O Lord, that we are tempted to place your saints into an unreachable box, so good and holy that their experience does not touch our own. If anything, we are full of holes rather than holy, and selfish motives accompany our acts of goodness. Still, you take our tattered and torn lives and sew together a holy people. You make us into saints.
     Thank you for the One in and through whom our lives become holy: your son, Jesus Christ. He is like fragrant oil which overflows its container, soothing and healing our wounds, and consecrating our lives to your impossible possibilities. Because of him, our hands are never empty. And because of him we are gathered here today, to worship you. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

        Lord, make us free... free with eyes not focused upon ourselves; free with ears open to hearing your Word; free with hands reaching out; free with hearts no longer chained by what we possess, but bound, instead, by what we can share. Yes, Lord, make us free... free to worship; free to be extravagant with thankfulness; free to break open the most costly oil upon your feet; free to love as love really is, In Jesus...Amen.

(f-1)                        (follows "Praise, I will praise you, Lord")
     With all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we praise you, Lord. But this is only possible through your presence in us, by your grace. Otherwise, we are easily distracted, diverted away from where you wish us to be, distanced from your calling, lost in our current situations. Forgive us our lack of attention to your Word, our failure to seek and find what we need from the source of all our joy. Help us to repent, to turn in the right direction this very moment, that we may fulfill your commandment to love you with all that we are, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. May we indeed worship you today with all our heart. In Jesus' name. Amen.     (5/16/04)

        Thank you, God, for the ability to sing out our faith. Of course, some of us are better singers than others. Accept our praise, from each and every tongue united in Jesus Christ. We know that all our voices together cannot even begin to convey the wonder and glory and majesty of who you are. Strangely enough, though, you make our song complete. To your gracious ears, the praise of a few is as great as the best chorus and symphony. We still find this hard to believe. You put a new song in our mouths. You set us free to sing! Thank you God. Receive the praise of these joy-filled hearts, in Jesus name. Amen.  (7/4/04, 1/29/06)

        As we come together into your presence with singing, O Lord, we confess that Love is still a mystery to us... This is as it should be, for Your Love is not something under our control. It is like Your Spirit, a wind which blows where it will, an unseen power. It is like Your Justice, which rolls down like waters, and Your Righteousness - an ever-flowing stream. Blow through us, roll through us, flow through us this hour, that your Love in us might be perfected on the anvil of faith. In Jesus name, we pray. Amen.        (8/18/02)

        In order for you to move in us, O Lord, we need to open the door. In some ways, that's the hardest step. We can be that mountain which seems impossible to move. Through our joys and our fears, our laughter as well as our tears, move us this morning, God. The door is open. Welcome. In the name of the One who said, "nothing is impossible," we pray. Amen.

        Thank you, God, for your gift of the Holy Spirit. Like the wind that blows across our land, we cannot control it. But like a ship on the sea, we can lift our sails and journey with it. By your mercy, Lord, move us. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.      (5/15/05)

        Eternal God, we open our minds and hearts to you this hour. Turn us on to you, and keep us tuned in, even after we have left this place. This we pray, in Jesus' name. Amen.     (10/24/04)

        O God, who is to us like a loving, faithful father, we open ourselves this day to your care. May your refreshment, your renewal, your forgiveness, your strength, your hope surround those who are gathered here in Jesus' name. Amen.        (6/17/07)

        We have come, O Lord. Not as faithful as we should be, nor as joyful as we could be. Even so, we have been attracted by your faithfulness and your joy. Holy Spirit, teach us this day more about your truth, as revealed by Jesus Christ. Fill us with your promised happiness. Challenge us to follow you this moment, this day, this coming week. All this we ask in the name of Jesus, whom we adore as Christ the Lord. Amen.              (10/28/01)

        In "the name of Jesus" we pray, O Lord. Our own, individual names separate us from one another and, more importantly, from you. When we gather with your Holy Spirit as our guide, many prayers become one prayer. A jamble of many words becomes less a tower of Babel, and more a simple, united song of praise. Thank you for this one-ness we have found in Jesus Christ, O God of every nation, Master of the universe. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

(g-1)                                                                Call to Worship
                        (The worship leader (#1) reads from the lecturn. The others join in from the pews in turn.)

1 - Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?
2 - You are God's temple!
3 - God's Spirit dwells in you!
4 - We are God's temple!
5 - God's Spirit dwells in us!


        An awesome thought, O Lord: We are your temple. You dwell in us. We must confess our feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness. The plain truth is: we're all sinners. Even so, you make us your sanctuary. Without your steadfast love, though, these Temples are nothing. Move through these rooms with your Spirit. Touch that Holy of Holies, that sacred space within us. Teach us how to Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

        "To live our praise to thee." That is our deepest desire, O God. Take these words we speak this day, these songs we sing, the gifts we offer; our inner thoughts, our outer expressions - take them all, and make them into a living praise that will not end with the final note of the postlude, but go with us beyond this place into our world. This we ask in Jesus' name. Amen.

(g-3)    Call to Worship
     Brother James, in his New Testament letter, nudges us forward with these words: "Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise." (5:13)  If you fit into those categories, youíve come to the right place. Weíre here today to pray to and to rejoice in the Lord. And those of us who find ourselves in the middle - not hurting at this moment, but also not really all that happy - Come, letís stand before the Lord just as we are and sing the Lordís song. Heíll bring us around just right.
     Brothers and sisters, we have met to worship! Letís do it!

Opening Prayer
     O God, who gave manna in the wilderness long ago, who still provides for those who hunger and thirst today, we have come to worship you. May the things we sing and say, as well as the things we think and feel, be acceptable (pleasing even) to you. Forgive us when what we say is not what we think, when our actions do not live up to our words of faith - forgive and live in us that we might become a people of integrity. Shower this hour with your blessings, that we might leave this place to share your good news with others. In Jesusí name, we pray. Amen.        (10/1/00)

(g-4)    Call to Worship
        Soon, our children will stand before us
                and sing to the Lord a song of Jesus.
                        Are we ready to stand with them
                                and sing as children of God ourselves?
        Soon, infants in their parentís arms will come forward
                and be dedicated to the Lord.
                        Are we ready to be dedicated also?
                                Do we not, all of us, come to God as children
                                        held in the arms of their heavenly Father?
        With happy voices singing, then,
                may our praise be full and clear.
                        May we tell the wondrous story,
                                and live in truth before God.
                                        Come, stand, worship!
                                                            ("With Happy Voices Singing," hymn #83)

Opening Prayer
        We praise you, O God. You have been faithful and true, through good times and bad. Forgive us for doubting when we have not seen your hand at work, believing that you are too distant to care or too weak to act. Open our eyes, our ears, our minds, our hearts to the glory of what you are about in this world. Open our hands to both receive from you and to reach out to others. Breathe into us the new life of your Holy Spirit, that we might breathe out your good news. This we pray in the name of the One who is our foundation: Jesus Christ. Amen!        (10/15/00)

(g-5)    Opening Prayer
        Thank you, God, for all your many blessings. We are surrounded with your goodness and mercy, if only we have eyes to see, ears to hear, hands to touch, and hearts to confess them. As you love us beyond what we do, caring for us simply because you created us - so we praise you for who you are, after and beyond what you give to us.
        Forgive our pride, which paints too small a picture of you next to our own portrait. Forgive our sloth, which holds back from dreaming big dreams with you in fear of the hard work involved. Forgive and live in us such that you and your vision becomes our motivation to face a new day with faith and hope. May these be moments of a new beginning for us.
        This we pray in the name of the One who said, "behold, I make all things new." Amen.    (11/19/00)

(g-6)    Call to Worship        (alludes to Psalm 104)
     One - Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, I stand in awe at your greatness.
     All - You are clothed with honor and majesty and robed in light.
     One - You stretch out the heavens like a tent,
     All - Making the winds your messengers, and fire and flame your servants
     One - How great are your works, O God!
     All - In your wisdom you created the earth and all that is within it.
     One - In thanksgiving, let us worship and praise the Lord our God.

                        Hymn - "How Great Thou Art"

Opening Prayer
        Great and awesome God, creator and source of all life, we worship and praise you. Out of chaos and darkness you spoke words which brought order and light and life. We marvel at such evidence of your greatness and glory. Yet, you laid these aside when you took on human flesh in Jesus Christ. In him we gained a new understanding of your power and glory, for he revealed through his life, that true power is based upon empowering others, and that glory is made visible through loving and serving others. We marvel anew at the depth of your care for us and the many ways our lives have been blessed by the sacrificial life and love of Jesus. It is because of him that we are gathered here today, and it is in his name that we pray. Amen.        (11/22/00)

(g-7)    Call to Worship     (Psalm 148:1-2, 13-14 NRSV)
             "Praise the LORD!
                Praise the LORD from the heavens;
                praise him in the heights!
                Praise him, all his angels;
                praise him, all his host!
                        Let them praise the name of the LORD,
                                           for his name alone is exalted;
                                                his glory is above earth and heaven.
                                    He has raised up a horn for his people,
                                                           praise for all his faithful,
                                                                        for the people of Israel who are close to him.
                Praise the LORD!"

                                        (then - "Good Christian friends, rejoice!")

Opening Prayer
        "Good" ... "Christian" ... "friends" ... do we really fit that billing, O Lord. So often we fall flat on our faces when it comes to being who you created us to be. We lag behind, all of us, when it comes to following your Son. Too easily we lose track of the "seventy times seven" ways of forgiving. "Turning the other check," and "going the second mile" become dim memories of something called "friendship." Have mercy, O God, for our "heart and soul" lag behind our "voice" when it comes to praise and joy.
        Thank you for the precious gift you have placed into our lives, a birth we celebrated not all that long ago. Help us to orient ourselves in such a way that every morning we can say, "Christ is born today!" Not just two thousand years ago. Not just two weeks ago. But today, January 7th, 2001. Not just in the ancient nearest land of Israel. Not just beneath a Christmas tree. But here in this place. Not just to Joseph and Mary and their "tribe." Not just to "tiny tots with their eyes all aglow." But to us, to me... "Christ is born today!
        This is the day. We open the door to your knock, our Savior. Welcome! Amen.        (1/7/01)

(g-8)                        (quotes John 7:37-38, could follow "Come thou fount of every blessing")
            Like a stream, O Lord, your blessings flow through our lives. Help us this hour to bend and drink in what you so richly provide, your living water which refreshes and invigorates. Forgive us the desire to place barriers across the current in order to store up for ourselves what you intend to share with all. Likewise, have mercy on our wandering feet which too often march in the opposite direction of where you desire us to be. Beyond forgiveness, pour your Holy Spirit upon us, that we might become part of your never-ending stream. This we pray in the name of the One who said, "Let those who are thirsty come to me, and those who believe in me drink... for Ďout of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water.í"  Amen.  (3/17/02, 1/21/01)

(g-9)      We praise you, Lord, for this sanctuary on our journey. You are the holiness in this place. We pause to reflect on your holiness, as we seek to reflect your holiness in our own lives. But a sanctuary is about safety as well as about holiness. We know you also as the safety which we feel in this sanctuary. We have paused on our weekís journey, once again to experience the holiness and the safety that we find in you and in your body.
               Our hearts are grateful for all of the goodness and love that we have experienced during this past week. We recognize you as the giver of all good things and praise you for this. When we understand that good news reporting is so often construed to be the most ample report of bad things that happen to people, we are thankful that the Gospel is nothing but the good news of your love for us. Thank you for such really Good News.
               On our life journeys, we find ourselves making missteps, stopping short of our goals on the journey, slowing our pace, changing course, and even giving up and turning back from the journey. Though we recognize when we miss the mark, we become experts in concealing our failings. We ask your pardon for all our shortcomings. Renew in us today the overwhelming assurance that all is not lost because of our failing. Give us again the certainty that you and other fellow travelers will be by our sides, no matter what may happen on the journey. Reawaken in us a clear vision of where we are going as we worship and fellowship together here today.
                 In Jesus name we pray, Amen                       
(written by Ellis Shenk)     (3/4/01)

(h-1)     Yes, Lord, you are our "light," our "salvation," as well as our "strength." Forgive us for allowing fear to rule us, as it does much more than we care to admit. This fear has a thousand names, but your perfect love casts it out. We come to you this hour as those who need:
                      the breath of your Spirit to blow through us,
                      the brightness of your light to shine in us and around us,
                      the fire of your love to bring us to life right now, and
                      the sight and sound of your glory to bring forth our "hallelujah."
            Yes, Lord, revive us again! Again, and again, and again! This we pray, in the name of the One who set his face to Jerusalem - your Son Jesus, our Christ. Amen!                                   (3/11/01)

(h-2)   Shepherd us, O God. You who care about the lost and the least - seeking, finding, carrying them home - we cannot help but enter into your joy. You call us together. "Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost," you tell us. Forgive us when we hold back and grumble our way through your grace and mercy. Keep seeking and finding us!
           Clean this house, O God. You whose word is like a lamp for our feet - lighting up this place, sweeping and searching every nook and cranny - we are drawn together by your call. "Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost."
          "There is more joy in heaven," you tell us, "there is joy in the presence of angels." May it overflow into this gathering, O Lord - into us. Help these tongues to sing our praise of your glory and grace. And Lord, as we sing, help us to hear your heavenly choir. In Jesusí name, amen.          (3/25/01)

(h-3) Welcome, Lord Jesus. You are the reason we are gathered here. As you entered Jerusalem long ago, come into the temple of our hearts and minds just now. If need be, turn a few tables upside down to bring us right-side up.
         Welcome, Holy Spirit. You are the power behind this hour. As you strengthened believers long ago, come among us just now. If need be, blow away the dust and cobwebs to spring clean this home.
         Welcome, God. You are who you are! We donít really need to welcome you here, for you are with us always. Even so, we open the gates and cry, "Hosanna! Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord!" Amen.      (4/8/01, 4/13/03, 3/20/05)

(h-4)                        (follows "Crown him with many crowns")
         Lord of life, of love, of peace, of time itself, we stand in awe of your eternal presence and resurrection power. We open our lives, once again, to your involvement. Come, Lord Jesus. As you sit in heaven, be seated here on the throne of our hearts. Forgive us our sin, and enter in. Amen.     (4/29/01)

(h-5)                        (follows "All hail the power of Jesusí name")
         We praise you, Lord God, and lift up the name of your Son. Through your Holy Spirit, direct us to not only speak the words, but to live as if they are true - to "crown him" Lord of our own lives. We confess that, on our own, we stumble and fall. We tarnish that crown with impure thoughts and thoughtless actions. Empower and guide us to walk by faith as those who are forgiven - step by step, day by day. Bless, O Lord, the promises made this hour, for they are grounded in your faithfulness to us. Yes, indeed! "All hail the power of Jesusí name." And Godís people said,    (everyone: "Amen!")     (5/6/01)

(h-6)  Thank you, God. You are so good to us. Your love is steady and does not falter, unlike our own. You are faithful and true, even when we are not. Forgive us for when we step over the line in our relationship with you and with others, hurting those we love or those we donít. Forgive us also when we donít step over that other line, when we fail to be thankful and to share gratitude. How often we jeopardize our connection with you and with our loved ones by not sharing a good word, or by not putting that gratitude into action.
         Thank you, Lord, for who you are and what you do. Help us to speak about and to act upon your perfect gifts, your wonderful works - every day, in ordinary ways and places. This we pray in the name of the One who was and is your most perfect gift, your wonderful work - Jesus Christ. Amen.          (5/13/01)

Lord God,
         our alpha and omega, our beginning and our end;
                  who has defeated sin and death
                           through your Son Jesus Christ;
                  who wipes the tears from our eyes even now,
                           with the promise of a future
                                    where tears will only be for joy;
     We praise you, O Lord, and love you
                     with heart, soul, and mind.
            May this worship be like a spring
                     of cold, clear water,
                              refreshing, cleansing, renewing, living,
                                       and pleasing in your sight.
                                                Amen!                                  (5/20/01, 6/24/07)

(h-8)                      (follows Praise Medley (vs. 1&7) "All creatures of our God and King,"
                                       (vs. 1&4)   "O worship the King," & (vs. 1&4) "Crown him with many crowns")

         Lamb upon the throne, Lord of peace, our God and King, Creator, Shield and Defender, Redeemer and Friend!... Mere words can not fully describe all that you are. Who are we to stand in your presence, in awe of your glory? And yet you have drawn us here. Your Holy Spirit empowers us to share your good news, to tell the story of your Son and your coming Kingdom, to rejoice in your Life freely given. You have already moved past our sin. In confessing how we have fallen far short of what you created us to be, we are enabled by you to see past our sin also. Help us to live beyond ourselves, in you - beginning yet again, this very moment. This we pray, focused upon and in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen!   (5/27/01)

(h-9)                     (follows "Holy Spirit, truth divine")
Lord God, in a world
         where truth seems so relative,
                  your Word is a solid foundation;
         where love is but a flickering, momentary flame,
                  your passion is a constant ember;
         where power is widely abused,
                  your quiet strength works for justice;
         where law is enforced from the outside in,
                  your rule is from the inside out;
         where peace is misunderstood as an absence of conflict,
                  your reconciliation is a voice of calm amid the storm;
         where joy depends upon outer circumstance,
                  your happiness is an ever-flowing spring from within.
As we sing your praise, Awesome God,
         we open ourselves to you,
                  that we may receive your promised Spirit.
                           Abide in us. Help us to abide in you.
         Gathered in the name of your Son, Jesus, we pray. Amen.      (6/3/01)

©1990-2001, Peter L. Haynes

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