Earlier this week I lost a dear friend. He was diagnosed with cancer a few weeks ago. Early Saturday morning I awoke to a phone call from his daughter with the news that he had died. As a hospital chaplain, I’m around death often. I know how to be present for others in their grief and loss, but this week I’ve been struggling with my own. It had also been a tough week at the hospital which only compounded my grief. I struggled to pray. What words could express how my heart was crying out? No words came. Then my friend Jon handed me a short prayer he had written for a project at the hospital. His words put language to what I couldn’t say on my own at that moment or since.
Prayer is powerful. Jon’s prayer has certainly helped me in my grief. I’ve seen and experienced God’s power and presence and peace countless times through prayer. But prayer often remains hard for me. It’s not only when I’m struggling. I’m a pastor and a hospital chaplain, so I pray all the time with, and for, people. I know what to say and what not to say. And yet, most people never notice when they listen to me that I don’t always have confidence in doing so. I often struggle to find language that matches the prayers of my heart. I get to stuck in my head. It feels like by the time the words reach my lips, they no longer express the real and raw prayers inside me. This is one of the reasons I am so thankful for Jon and for this book.
I started meeting with Jon as my spiritual director a few years ago. He has a knack for helping me listen well to the Spirit, and he challenges me to respond. In our conversations, Jon would often reference his daily writing at 300wordsaday.com. I don’t read many blogs, but I read Jon, especially on Sundays. Each Sunday, Jon posts a prayer to go along with the lectionary reading for the day. Many of those prayers became the prayers found in this book. In many of these prayers, I’ve found the language I’m so often searching for. I’ve leaned on these words in my private prayer life. I’ve shared them publicly in worship gatherings and on social media. I’m thrilled now to have them together in this collection. I know in these words you will find language for the prayers of your heart as well.
Thank you, Jon, for your friendship. Thank you for your partnership in ministry. Thank you for taking the time to listen to the Spirit and to help me do the same. Thank you for these prayers.
Brian Spahr is pastor of Come2Go Ministries (Fort Wayne), a chaplain at Parkview Health System, and a husband and dad.