Prayer for 24 June

Hello again, everyone.

As I promised last week, the focus of these prayers will be mental health. I’ve wrestled with them, I can tell you! 

Every Minister, every preacher, with a grain of sense (and even I rise over that very low bar occasionally!) knows that a lot of what he says to a congregation – real or virtual – will be things they already know.

There are, however, bits of what follow that you won’t know – quite a lot of them, actually. 

They’re to do with the thoughts I’ve had, and the places I’ve been, over the last three months, mostly without leaving the Manse! They’re to do with the many conversations I’ve had, and the conversations you’ve had won’t have been the same. 

They’re my thoughts on my experience of others, and what they’ve shared of their experiences, joy and anxiety and pain, consolation and faith and hope. Darkness and light. Light, and, we must also admit, darkness. 

I offer them as my thoughts, so that in agreement, hesitation or disagreement, you can join me in bringing our thoughts, all together, to God. 

I hope that all is well with you; I rejoice and am grateful for, everything I hear of people’s wellness and resilience. But I don’t presume; these things aren’t virtues, as much unfortunate talk (“He’s a battler! He’ll come through!” implying that perhaps those who didn’t, weren’t – which is profoundly untrue and hurtful.) 

I don’t presume. So if you’d like to talk, then, like so many others in your lives I hope, I’m here. 

And I know you’re there, and that I’m in your prayers, as you are in mine. 


PS Once again, I have to conduct a funeral tomorrow, so I shall have record this.

You’ll see the preview of it at 11.45  on the United Church of Bute YouTube Channel. 12 o’clock is still the hour of Presbytery Prayers, of course, and I shall be thinking of you at that point. I will actually be watching, but I can’t guarantee being able to conduct. 

So – another of our COVID-19 virtual ironies – I’ll be in exactly the same position as anyone else using YouTube to frame their prayers!

Leading myself in prayer will be a new experience for me. It’s yet more food for thought…

…and when he came near, he asked him,
“What do you want me to do for you?”
(Luke 18:40-41)

When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, 

he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” (John 5:6)

When Jesus heard this, he marvelled at him… (Luke 7:9)

Judge not… (Matthew 7:1)

Even Jesus did not presume.

Even Jesus asked, and attended to what was said,

And what was not… 

Even Jesus listened.

Especially – Jesus listened. 


On the cusp of change,

Possible, actual and prospective,

We take stock of what we have seen,

What we have learned, 

What we may have missed…

In this eerie strangeness, 

you have given your Church so much in which to rejoice. 

There have been good things, wonderful things – 

but things have not “been wonderful.”

We have been surprised by joy – 

but all has not been joy. 

You are the God of Truth, ALL truth

and we are chronic simplifiers.

Shrinking complexity to comfortable size. 

Have we denied parts of our own experience,

so that we cannot now see the complexity of others’ experience? 

We think on this.


We pray for our own congregations, our communities, and the people we know, or imagine we do:

  • for those who are faring well, and finding new things to do, and rediscovering old projects and pleasures, and doing well in this; 
  • for those whose isolation is unprepared-for, new and unsettling;
  • for those whose old isolation has been deepened;
  • for those cut off from the sources of strength embedded in routines now disrupted;
  • for those who mourn.

We pray for those who wrestle with things we cannot imagine,

situations expertly hidden through long practice,

whose lives are complicated by these times in ways we cannot imagine,

And who will live with these intensifications now.

We pray for those who have been thrown into strange, difficult places

by these strange, difficult times, 

and for those who sit with them and live with them. 


We pray for our communities,

Always, but especially now. 

and especially those who attend to their mental health: 

psychiatrists, psychologists and Community Psychiatric Nurses, 

and especially, within our bounds,

Argyll and Bute Council Social Work Department,

the Mental Health team, 

counsellors, GPs, volunteers, friends and neighbours –

us, if you open our minds and souls… 

Loving God, we come with a list!

  • Not a list of demands; 
  • Not a tick-list to simplify prayer;
  • Not, certainly, an exhaustive list;
  • Not a list to run through, once.

A tally of care, and also of need. 

We pray for those who work for, and whose lives are touched by: 

  • The Scottish Association for Mental Health
  • Support in Mind Scotland
  • Penumbra – Supporting Scotland’s Mental Health
  • CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably)
  • National Schizophrenic Fellowship (Scotland)
  • Bipolar Fellowship Scotland
  • Action on Depression
  • The Samaritans
  • The Listening Service
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • SFAD – Scottish Families affected by Alcohol and Drugs
  • Mind Infoline
  • Rape Crisis Scotland
  • Scottish Women’s Aid
  • SANE
  • No Panic
  • Anxiety UK
  • OCD Action
  • Hearing Voices

Where these have been just names for us –

Lead us into deeper understanding;

Let Google inform us

Compassion drive us,

And our prayers support them. 


And we pray: 

Keep us from feeling sympathy for others. 

Guard us from “imagining how they feel”

And above all, imagining that we know – 

so that we can listen 

           to the voice beneath the voice,

                   attend to the subtle, contradicting signals –

be truly present to them,

         as Jesus was truly present to the needs

                 of those among whom he walked:

as Christ is truly present to our needs, 

           among whom, and with whom, he stands. 

Take away our sympathy. Give us empathy, 

the attuned, enfleshed, 

incarnate knowing – 

not “what it’s like for them”

but what it’s like, to be like them.

Remind us that this is what Jesus knew.

Even Jesus did not presume.

Even Jesus asked, and attended to what was said,

And what was not… 

Even Jesus listened.

Especially – Jesus listened. 

Teach us to ask, to listen and to learn,

As Jesus did.

And as Jesus taught us, we pray…  Our Father… 

Prayer for 17 June

Dear Friends

Off to do shopping in a minute. Note to self: we need a 150 watt equivalent bulb… I’ve been thinking a lot about light this week!

We human beings understand our existence in terms of patterns. 

Scripture is the interface, the place-of-meeting, between human experience of life in the world, and God-given human experience of God (revelation, if you like). 

So it’s also a place where those patterns are made to stand out so that we can see them clearly. 

One of the deepest, most ingrained, of these patterns is the sense of movement that we call “hope.” It isn’t just our need for reassurance projected onto a cold, unfeeling world. It’s our knowledge of God through God’s dealings with God’s people, reflected in Scripture and offered to the world through us, Christ’s Church. 

It’s to do with what God’s like. 

We human beings are tremendously aware of the difference between light and darkness. It’s to do in large part with the way in which we’re made. We don’t have eyes which see well at night. And we don’t have radar, like bats! 

The darkness hides things from us, more than it does from owls, or other nocturnal animals. Night, the coming of darkness, is a time of withdrawing from a hostile world we no longer understand. 

And it’s the time of dreams, when our minds try to process the experiences of the day, sometimes in bizarre and frightening ways. Yet, if things trouble us, we “sleep on them”, and can find that we are offered wisdom and understanding in the morning.

There are religious traditions which understand light and darkness, goodness and evil, as in an eternal balance. Ours absolutely doesn’t.

The Judaeo-Christian tradition clothes its understanding in the only language that really works, drawn from our poor eyesight and our sleep-patterns and brainwave activity, of light and darkness, and tells us:

“And there was evening, and there was morning, the first day…” NOT the other way round.

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes with the morning.” 

But this is truth, not just metaphor. God, who is love, is light. In Jesus, the light indeed comes into the world. 

Because that’s what we are led to know about God. It comes out of the experience of God’s people with God.

That’s how we can stand, socially distanced from our neighbours, and shout across the fence, or the road, in bright mid-day sunlight:

“There may be some more dark days ahead, but maybe we can see some light at last…” 

We’re in times when nobody can see much, shapes of things we can’t quite make out disturb us, and we’re processing thoughts that we can’t make sense of. 

And in the most literal way, we have had to withdraw from a world we can’t, for the moment, function entirely safely in. And it’s the same for everyone. 

But what’s different for us is the pattern we are offered to see in this. It’s the way Scripture, and faith, and, ultimately God in Jesus Christ, organizes our experience. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes with the morning. 

And it’s our job, as the congregations – the parish churches – of this Presbytery and as their members, to live out this faith and this hope for our neighbours and communities. 

The morning may be some way off. The new day will contain challenges of its own. But we shall see more, and we shall understand better. 

That’s what keeps me going! 

We sometimes say – and maybe, God forgive us, with a of hint un-Christlike superiority – “I don’t know how people cope without faith…” 

Well, it’s our job, as the “church of the people who don’t go to church”, to live out that faith, in simple hope, especially at a time like this. God strengthen us all – and give us joy – to do that!

Yours in the Adventure of Christ, 


God willing, I’ll be offering these prayers in a live-stream at mid-day on Wednesday. If it’s helpful to join me, please do. You’ll find the live-stream on the YouTube United Church of Bute channel, where Presbytery stuff is hosted at the moment. We’ll let you know of any change in these arrangements.

By the way – for those of you who noted that Sibyl’s readings were hard to hear at the Presbytery Online Meeting, we’ve corrected that. The problem was that the laptop mic is highly directional. (There’s a sermon lurking in there, somewhere!) 

The people who sat in darkness

have seen a great light,

and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death

light has dawned. (Matt.4:1) 

[T]he day shall dawn upon us from on high

to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,

to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:78-79)

For you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. (1 Thessalonians 5:5)


It is our calling, and our joy, Father of Light, 

To walk in your light.

We live, not in a gridlocked universe, 

Where light and darkness tussle and supplant each other endlessly, 

And nothing goes anywhere. 

Faith grasps the movement from all things

From darkness into your light. 

Ground us now, in these deep patterns of faith. 

John announces the coming of Jesus, 

Which his father proclaimed over him at his birth

“You will go before the Lord to prepare his ways…

when the day shall dawn upon us from on high.”

Jesus comes, and with him the Kingdom breaks in. 

Christ died,

Christ is risen

Christ will come again.

The defeated night loses ground.

Yet we still live in the darkness, 

As the people of the dawn. 

This is the raw material, 

The DNA, of our faith. 

We pray for those around us, 

In this time of pandemic, 

For whom the darkness

Is a close-woven fabric of anxiety and uncertainty. 

We know, and feel, and register

These things too. 

We pray for those who chafe at restrictions, 

Those who find confinement to their homes frustrating, 

Socially-distanced queues strange and unsettling, 

Even after all this time. 

We have felt all these things.

We share the joy, too, 

That the lifting of restrictions brings.

We rejoice to travel short distances, 

To be with people we love, 

Even if the rules we must obey remind us

That the night, far spent, is not yet by. 

We remember those for whom the easing of restrictions

Highlights their grief, that it should have happened then, or now,

When the rites of loss are so truncated. 

Strengthen us, your congregations

To keep our promise, when the times permit,

That communities may remember, and give thanks together

For those who have died when this could not be done. 


In other words, Lord, we pray

For people just like us – the people we know so well,

Because we live among them, our friends and neighbours. 

They are our communities. 

And we are their church. 

We know that in the darkness

We seize on every glimmer of light, 

Because we human beings

Are reassured by as little as the burning of a match

When there is nothing else. 

But for us, in faith, you make the glimmers

More than “light at the end of the tunnel.”

They are the promise of a new day. 


We pray for our politicians and leaders,

And the whole political process –

“That it may generate light, not heat”

Is the old platitude, Lord, we know – 

But now it is light that we need. 

Guard them from the seeking of advantage, 

And the playing of old games,

That their leadership, 

and their questioning of leadership’s direction, 

Their formulation of policy 

and their interrogation of policy,

May always be grounded in truth, 

and concern for the well-being of all. 

We pray for the press, in their high calling

Of seeking the truth by the shining of its light

In rigorous and proper scrutiny. 

We pray for the General Assembly that never fully happened, 

Its Commission, and its Moderator, 

Who embody its ongoing work

And the momentum of its predecessors’ work,

As they have sought to bring light to our work,

And move us out into a new day. 

We pray for boldness to emerge into a dawn that will be strange, 

Full of challenges, even beyond what we could have imagined

When the Radical Action Plan was conceived.

We pray for our Presbytery’s role in this, 

And that our planning and thinking be grounded

In hope, in light, in faith and in prayer. 


We may keep a brief silence at this point, and pray silently, once again, for those who care for others, serve society, and work to overcome the pandemic. 


And as Jesus taught us, so we pray: Our Father…

Prayer for 9 June

Dear friends,

Someone – a Minister, of course! – said “The Sundays, they do come with an awful regularity…” Well so do Wednesdays, all of a sudden, for me! 

We will all take different things from the news, and our sense of where we, our families and friends, our congregations and communities, our society, might be will be different for each one of us. 

For me, this week, it’s been the sense of a change, of the beginnings of the easing of lockdown, of the return of a sense of movement – and also the anxiety that things could easily and suddenly start going backwards, and in saying that, I’m not trying to ”rain on the parade”. 

There are new, good things, but things are not straightforward. Things are not straightforward, but there are new, good things. That’s where I am, in my head, this week, and I wonder if you are too? 

I offer this reflection hoping that we are all in a roughly similar place. 

Here we are as a Presbytery, virtual but vibrant, and very, very real! And we know that it’s the same with our congregations, despite the real anxieties of the times. And, as Douglas identified, it’s good, each week, to sit together in the moment we have been brought to by events, and by God, and simply open our minds and souls to the reality in which we find ourselves. 

I’m not able to live-stream at 12 tomorrow; I have a funeral on the mainland. I intend to video and upload this prayer so that you can use it – or not! – at 12 tomorrow, or at any time. Let me know – and keep letting me know – what’s useful. 

And again, thank you for your prayers. You have mine.

Yours in the adventure of Christ, 


We lean, Lord, on the patterns

of scripture, and of faith:
repeating patterns, though never the same;

as old as your dealings with your people; 

as fresh and new as our experience today;

framing our faith, grounding our trust, 

equipping us to be your people in the world. 

You are the God of the Exodus –

but before they could be brought out

to the freedom which is your gift,

your people had to be shown

that you had been listening, hearing, 

with them, all along. 

They had to meet you afresh; 

they had to re-learn who they were. 

Have we done this? 

You are the God who overthrew

Your people’s bitter exile,

But they had to be reminded,

By the waters of Babylon, 

Powerless and overawed by their captivity and smallness,

How all things are in your hands. 

Have we grasped this? 

You are the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead,

But before they could begin to grasp this,

The disciples had to have their old assumptions shattered, 

To relinquish old, cramped, comfortable understandings,

Too small, like Jesus’ grave

To contain the Risen Christ.

They had to let go, in order to receive.

Can we do this? 

In this pause, just before things might change,

Help us to reflect on what we have been taught, 

On what we take with us on our journey from here,

And what we must leave behind.


We have come this week to a moment: 

Stage One – soon, we hope, Stage Two…

Expectation mounts! 

Are we slowly beginning to emerge, Lord?

Dates and times and promises

may fluctuate, and advance, and retreat;

“What if the R-number increases?” 

“What if we were thrown back into lockdown?” 

Jesus, we remember, taught the disciples,

outside Caesarea Philippi:

hope is difficult for our human family,  

because we corrupt it into wishing, and dreaming, and specifying closely,

what we want, and when we want it.

Wishes, and longings, and impatience

meld dangerously into a counterfeit of hope.

It’s simple things we all long  for.

Offering and accepting an invitation into a home,

the unthinkingly proffered hand to shake not recoiled from, 

withdrawn in fluster and embarrassment;

the simple ability to drive round and check properly

on those we love. 

We pray these things come quickly,

but more than that, that they come when it is safe they should.

For all, and for all among us, who shield,  – 

disappointed, even distraught at the postponing, of that safe day,

when careful, joyful emergence back into the outside world

becomes possible, we pray. 

Let it come soon.

We pray – and this is hard, Lord – 

for those tempted to push the envelope,

to go right up to, and sometimes flagrantly beyond, 

those hard, challenging boundaries that have kept us safe. 

Temper our anger and indignation

at their folly and yes, their self-centredness,

with Christ’s compassion; 

they know not what they do.

Their actions appal us;

Their selfishness endangers us all;

their frustration is ours. 

Lord, bring light, restraint, care and consideration for others. 

Father, forgive. 

We pray especially  for those who have to cope with, 

And deal with, and police such selfishness.

We remember especially the police, this week. 

We pray for all those who sustain the life of society.

It’s usually so helpful – but sometimes too easy– 

to list them before you in prayer.

Today, instead we seek the Spirit’s leading;

Surprise us, as we enfold all those who help, and sustain,

and work through this crisis, to serve others.

Let us discover in prayer some of those we have, inevitably, we know,



I would suggest that we keep a brief silence at this point, and pray, individually and silently, for those who care for others, serve society, and work to overcome the pandemic. 


We know that we shall be brought through. 

We have seen the deep patterns of Scripture.

We pray for our congregations, whose business is hope,

hope in a world where hope is at a premium;

for office-bearers and devoted members,

who balance hope with responsibility and anxiety, 

we pray for our Church, and for the whole Church, in all her traditions. 

Help us to witness to our neighbours and communities

the hope that hopes where we do not know the day or the hour,

but knows that the day will come. 

And as Jesus taught us, we say – and know that others will be saying – 

His prayer:
Our Father…