I climb up the back steps, push open the door, walk past the library on my right, past the sanctuary on my left, through the parlor lit only by stained glass windows. The chapel, on the right, is set up. Nobody else is here.
I’ve come to complete an assignment, a challenge to check off for our Lenten small group study.
At the entrance is a music stand that supports instruction sheets for this prayer experience. I take one and then slip into the second pew. I’m thinking about what’s on my list after I’m done.
I get up, walk around, take pictures. Remind myself to remind my husband that he needs to “do” this before Sunday.
Finally, I settle down and read the instructions.
Stage One: As a prelude to prayer, read James 5:13-20. I pull out a pew Bible and read–once, twice, three times.
The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. ~James 5:16 (NIV)
I think about the words, then read the instructions again. I’m supposed to spend some time in confession, and so I spill things I spilled in the past. But wait… it’s supposed to be a recent sin. That’s easy. Grace couldn’t sleep last night. Therefore, getting her up this morning was not pretty. I was anything but patient, anything but quiet.
I breathe deep, release the tension, accept forgiveness.
Stage Two: Ask God to heal the emotions, self-esteem, or any other damage you’ve inflicted. (Why is it so much easier to pray for others?)
Stage Three: Near the vine-covered cross is a small basket with little pieces of paper. Write down a prayer request for yourself, fold or roll it, and tuck it within the vines. Pray about it.
Stage Four: Light a candle to represent someone in your life for whom you are praying. I have many someones, but I focus on one who lies heavy.
Stage Five: Two journals lay on the railing. In the one on the left, write a specific prayer request you have for this church. I’m on my knees now, reading and praying through other requests. I linger here, then formulate my own. I write.
In the journal on the right, enter a specific request for our community.
Stage Six: Step up on the platform and serve yourself communion from the elements found in the basket.
I pick up one of the little cups and take it back to the front pew. I hold it for a long time, think about those who celebrated before me, think about the words of Jesus.
“This is my body given for you…do this in remembrance of me.”
I tear off the top, lift out the wafer.
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood poured out for you.”
I sit in this sacred pause a while longer.
And then I walk down the aisle, back through the parlor, down the steps, to the Journey.
I return home.
I’ve forgotten about my to-do list.
Linking with April Yamasaki’s blog carnival.