A Liturgy for Unnamed Ache & Grief: The Power of Borrowed Words & Prayers
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The Power of Borrowed Words & Prayers
One of my favorite writers and contemplatives, Emily P. Freeman, says,
“When uncertainty permeates the moment, whether because of a devastating national or personal tragedy or you’re in a season of waiting or doubt, a regular practice of praying familiar words could serve as a comfort and even be considered a radical act of faith.”
Over the past year, I have found that Emily’s words ring true in my own life. Borrowing prayers, blessings, and words from others have been a great comfort to me when my own words seem to fall short or when I can’t quite form them within me and get them out of me the way I desperately want and need to.
During this Advent season, two themes keep emerging for me; the theme of Light and dark, and the theme of an embodied faith — the Word becoming flesh — which I wrote about last week and have linked here for you to read or listen to: Living an Embodied Faith This Advent Season
The theme of Light and dark is one that is still forming within me. One that I’m holding close and wrestling with as I invite the Spirit of God to hold up His loving, gentle Light to my own dark parts. As I learn what it means to hold space within me and around me for both the Light and the dark. To not shy away from what feels prickly and achy, but rather invite Hope here to sit with me right in the middle of it.
At the beginning of the Advent season, I stumbled upon Every Moment Holy’s free downloadable Advent resource. It’s a 4-week-long Advent journal and liturgy writing supplement that provides you with a new liturgy for each week of Advent and then a how-to guide on how to write your own liturgies.
Liturgies, according to Every Moment Holy, are prayers for the practices and rhythms that form us. These prayers are ways of reminding us that our lives are shot through with sacred purpose even when, especially when, we are too busy or too caught up in our busyness to notice.
Liturgies are acts and words of worship, inviting the Sacred and Holy One into every moment of our lives.
At first, writing my own liturgies, my own poetic prayers, felt a bit awkward. But soon, they flowed freely out of me as I freed myself of expectation and surrendered the desire for each written liturgy to be perfect. What makes written liturgies so beautiful in my opinion is their simplicity and raw honesty.
If you’d like to download the free Advent liturgy resource from Every Moment Holy, I’ll link it for you here: Every Moment Holy Liturgy Writing Guide
The second week of their Advent liturgy journal invites us to explore the liturgy of missing someone; the pain of grief and loss and heartache. Resistance is what I noticed rise up within me first as I began to read. Because even though I want to learn how to hold both the dark and Light parts of myself and the world, it doesn’t mean it’s easy or comfortable.
After pondering the words on the page, the journal invited me to write my own liturgy of grief – a prayer for the loss and ache found in my own life.
And I think this is what it looks like to hold the dark and the Light – to give language to all that feels awkward, uncomfortable, and just plain painful. To name it and invite the Light to sit there anyway. To look at it, to honor it, to not ignore it but to lean into it and listen for what it might want to teach us.
So, friend, in an effort to give words to the lack I feel in my own soul this Advent season, here is my written prayer; my liturgy for unnamed ache and grief. And I invite you to borrow them, to make them your own prayer – your own liturgy – if you’re having trouble finding and forming your own words in this season of Advent.
May these words today open your heart to receive the Light in those dark places of your own soul.
A Liturgy for Unnamed Ache & Grief
I feel the hollowness of my own lack, My cry for wholeness and my longing For restoration run deep and true. I will hold this ache up to the Light And in an act of holy rebellion, reach Out for Hope to fill me in the midst of All that feels sad and lonely. You, Lord, come to sit with us in the dark; To comfort those who mourn, to bestow A crown of beauty where ashes once were, To pour over our souls the oil of joy, to Clothe us in garments of praise in Exchange for our spirits of despair. But let us not shy away from despair, Let us not push down our melancholic grief, Let us instead invite you to sit here with us, Because we know that in leaning into the pain With you, we share in your joy, we receive Your healing and we are warmed by Your Light. We long, hunger, and groan for more and You faithfully give more; more Love, more Hope, more Light. Fill us with this truth in The midst of our ache today. Come, Lord Jesus, Come. Amen.
Places to Borrow Words
I want to leave you today with some resources – ones that I know and love and trust – that you can turn to when you have the longing and need to borrow words because your own aren’t quite forming the way you need them to. May this list of borrowed words bless you and keep you.
- To Bless the Space Between Us by John O’Donohue: this is a deeply powerful book of blessings and prayers that give language to different seasons and stages of life and heart attitudes.
- The Psalms: the Psalms in the Bible are often a favorite place of mine to go when I need to find words of praise, lament, questioning, and longing. They also remind me that those in the Bible were very much human, too, just like us. Purchasing a Psalter, which is just a book of Psalms, can be a helpful tool.
- Every Moment Holy Volumes I & II: here are books that offer liturgies and prayers for daily life.
- The Quiet Collection by Emily P. Freeman: this is a new iPhone app that you download onto your phone. There’s a free ‘borrowed prayers’ section within the app that you can listen to or read at any time. There’s also an in-app purchase if you’d like to download The Quiet Collection for Christmas, which consists of 10 audio offerings from Emily that relate to the Advent season.
- Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals: This book of common prayer helps individuals, families, and congregations pray together across denominations. This book of common prayer will help you and your community join together each day with the same songs, scriptures, and prayers.
- Stormie Omartian has written many different books of prayers for many stages and seasons of life. For example, there’s a book of prayers for wives, husbands, parents, grandparents, etc.
- Ann Voskamp’s Sticky Notes for the Soul: this Advent, Ann Voskamp is offering free downloadable access to small notes of truth. I printed mine out and turned them into a handcrafted Advent calendar.
May you find the Light this Advent season, friend, and be blessed by the words of others that came before you. May their words and prayers form you, bringing life and Light to the places within you that are worn and tired and dry.
Peace be with you,
An Invitation to Be Still & Know this Advent Season
Does the Holiday season usually leave you hurried and harried? Are you longing to be hushed by the Holy this Advent season? If so, check out my new Advent devotional, Be Still & Know: Seeking Still Moments in God’s Presence this Advent Season, here. You may find that my words are the borrowed words you need this Advent season.