? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Matrix of Grace: Prayers to Share

Prayers to Share

.. . .always seek to do good to one another and to all.  Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstance; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  Do not quench the Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 5:15b-19)

The fruit and the purpose of prayer is to be one with and like God in all things
-Julian of Norwich

Quivering Grace
The heart-lancing joy of being alive
Pierces our stony conceit;
Arouses us all for Myst’ry to strive
And suff’ring of others to meet


A matrix is a vessel, a habitat, a womb where new forms are conceived that bear the essential character of their originating source. A second generation arises within the spaces or interstices among that first generation, but they are not restricted to or characteristic of their originating source. The possibilities of combinations in the generations that follow are astronomical as new forms continue to be conceived within the interstices in unpredictably entangled ways.

The Matrix of Grace is the womb in which we live and move and have our being. Within it there is space for an atom and a galaxy, a black hole and a Heaven and Earth. It is the vessel in which our cosmos was conceived and is still being birthed. It is the habitat that has led to life itself through a combination of the not-life chemical elements that eventually produced you and me. Each of us are unique, yet we all bear the DNA of our Creator. Each generation is passing, yet all are alive within the eternal NOW of the Matrix. 

In ancient Greek there were two words for time: chromos and kairos. Chronos is that which marks the days and years of our lives. Kairos is a span or moment of indeterminate time where everything happens at once.  This is known as the kyrotic moment of fulfillment. We human creatures experience time and place as sequential movement, but the NOW of the Matrix of Grace is both an eternal place and an everlasting time for the matter and energy of the cosmos.

The matter and energy of the cosmos are interchangeable; matter can be converted to energy and vice versa. Energy/matter was set in motion as a subatomic speck inflated within a trillionth of a second by a Power that set it off with a Big Bang. That “sparked speck” continues to inflate by gravitational ripples at a rate of speed beyond our ability to imagine. And from it has come the fabric of time and space as we know it.  This inflationary process eventually produced the makings of the chemical elements that evolved into multi-billions of solar systems and galaxies of energy/matter, and perhaps even into other universes. 

Scientists with the most sophisticated tools believe we can observe only about 5% of matter and energy. Our Universe appears to be held together by a “scaffolding” of the 95% of energy/matter from the Big Bang that we cannot observe, although, like God’s grace, we can “observe” its unseen influence on those things we can see. To put it mildly, there’s a lot going on in the Matrix.

Philosopher Alan Watts (1915-1973) is famous for this description of who we are within the Matrix: Billions of years ago, you were a big bang, but now you’re a complicated human being.  And then we cut ourselves off and don’t feel that we’re still the big bang, but you are. . .you’re not something that’s a result of the big bang.  You’re not something that is sort of puppet on the end of the process.  You are still the process.  You are the big bang, the original force of the universe, coming on as whoever you are.

It’s the paradox of our being: we are IT, the energy/matter of all that is, but we are not it. We continue the ancient struggle of ego versus humility. It has been a blow to the human ego (and many religious philosophers) in the last five centuries, as we have learned that neither our minor yellow star, the Sun, nor our very minor planet Earth are at the center of the universe. Obviously, that makes us Earth-bound creatures a fly-speck in relation to all that is.

In this Universe there is no center and there are no edges. Even on Earth, that the bulk of its creatures abide underwater, as our particular species did earlier in its evolution--the waters of our mothers’ wombs demonstrate our essential, biological connection. An amazing 99% of those underwater species have evolved to produce light, a deep-sea bioluminescence of living lights, blinks, or flashes.  Perhaps the auras of energy that surround our bodies are distant links to our water-dwelling cousins.

Leaping from a life form as a sea creature to the human beings you and I are today has taken no little bit of time or energy. Even our earthly starting point some 4 ½ billion years ago is beyond our ability to comprehend.  But writer Bill Bryson offers us a shorthand way to consider our personal lineage. In his mind-boggling book *A Short History of Nearly Everything  (paperback version, Broadway Books, New York 2003), he offers us the following mathematics about what it has taken for us as specific homo sapien individuals to get to where we are today.  In his chapter, “The Stuff of Life,” (beginning on page 397) he writes:

If your two parents hadn’t bonded just when they did—possibly to the second, possibly to the nanosecond—you wouldn’t be here.  And if their parents hadn’t bonded in a precisely timely manner, you wouldn’t be here either.  And if their parents hadn’t done likewise, and their parents before them, and so on, obviously and indefinitely, you wouldn’t be here.

Push backwards through time and these ancestral debts begin to add up.  Go back just eight generations to about the time that Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were born, and already there are over 250 people on whose timely couplings your existence depends.  Continue further, to the time of Shakespeare and the Mayflower pilgrims, and you have no fewer than 16,384 ancestors earnestly exchanging genetic material in a way that would, eventually and miraculously, result in you.

At twenty generations ago, the number of people procreating on your behalf has risen to 1,048,567.  Five generations before that, and there are no fewer than 33,554,432 men and women on whose devoted couplings your existence depends.  By thirty generations ago, your total number of forebears—remember, these aren’t cousins and aunts and other incidental relatives, but only parents and parents of parents in a line leading ineluctably to you—is over one billion (1,073,741,824 to be precise).  If you go back sixty-four generations, to the time of the Romans, the number of people on whose cooperative efforts your eventual existence depends has risen to approximately 1,000,000,000,000,000,000, which is several thousand times the total number of people who have ever lived.

Clearly something has gone wrong with our math here. The answer, it may interest you to learn, is that your line is not pure.  You couldn’t be here without a little incest—actually, quite a lot of incest—albeit at a genetically discreet move.  With so many millions of ancestors in your background, there will have been many occasions when a relative from your mother’s side of the family procreated with some distant cousin from your father’s side of the ledger.  In fact, if you are in a partnership now with someone from your own race (sic) and country, the chances are excellent that you are at some level related.  Indeed, if you look around you on a bus or in a park or café or any crowded place, most of the people you see are very probably related.  When someone boasts to you that he (sic) is descended from William the Conqueror or the Mayflower Pilgrims, you should answer at once: “Me, too!” In the most literal and fundamental sense we are all family.

We are also uncannily alike.  Compare your genes with any other human being’s and on average they will be about 99.9 percent the same.  This is what makes us a species.  The tiny differences in that remaining 0.1 percent—“roughly one nucleotide base in every thousand,” to quote the British geneticist and recent Nobel laureate John Sulston—are what endow us with our individuality.  Much has been made in recent years of the unraveling of the human genome.  In fact, there is no such thing as “the” human genome.  Every human genome is different.  Otherwise we would all be identical.  It is the endless recombinations of our genomes—each nearly identical, but not quite—that make us what we are, both as individuals and as a species. . . 

. . .(p. 399) DNA exists for just one reason—to create more DNA—and you have a lot of it inside of you: about six feet of it squeezed into almost every cell.  Each length of DNA comprises some 3.2 billion letters of coding, enough to provide 103,480,000,000 possible combinations, “guaranteed to be unique against all conceivable odds,” in the words of Christian de Duve (Nobel Laureate biochemist).  That’s a lot of possibility—a one followed by more than three billion zeroes. “It would take more than five thousand average-size books just to print that figure,” notes de Duve.  Look at yourself in the mirror and reflect upon the fact that you are beholding ten thousand trillion cells, and that almost every one of them holds two yards of densely compacted DNA, and you begin to appreciate just how much of this stuff you carry around with you.  If all of your DNA were woven into a single fine strand, there would be enough of it to stretch from the Earth to the Moon and back not once or twice but again and again.  Altogether, according to one calculation, you may have as much as twenty million kilometers of DNA bundled up inside you.

Your body, in short, loves to make DNA and without it you couldn’t live.  Yet DNA is not itself alive.  No molecule is, but DNA is, as it were is especially unalive.  It is “among the most nonreactive, chemically inert molecules in the living world,” in the words of geneticist Ricahard Lewontin.  That is why it can be recovered from patches of long-dried blood or semen in murder investigations and coaxed from the bones of ancient Neanderthals.  It also explains why it took scientists so long to work out how a substance so mystifyingly low key—so, in a word, lifeless-could be at the very heart of life itself.

. . .(page 414)  It can all begin to seem impossibly complicated, and in some ways it is impossibly complicated.  But there is an underlying unity in the way life works.  All the tiny, deft chemical processes that animate cells—the cooperative efforts of nucleotides, the transcription of DNA into RNA—evolved just once and have stayed pretty well fixed ever since across the whole of nature.  As the late French geneticist Jacques Monod put it, only half in jest: “Anything that is true of E coli must be true of elephants, except more so.”

Every living thing is an elaboration on a single original plan.  As humans we are mere increments—each of us a musty archive of adjustments, adaptations, modifications, and providential tinkerings stretching back 3.8 billion years (to the development of hominoids).  Remarkably, we are even quite closely related to fruit and vegetables.  About half the chemical functions that take place in a banana are fundamentally the same chemical functions that take place in you.

It cannot be said too often: all life is one.  That is, and I suspect will forever prove to be, the most profound true statement there is.”   

All of life is one. We live and move and have our being in an “underlying unity” within God’s Matrix wherein all of life is one and everything is possible. As poet Emily Dickenson writes, “I dwell in possibilities.”  We human beings dwell as a paradox of possibilities: all of us from the same “stuff” yet each of us unique; all of us existing as one creation within the womb of our Creator, yet each of us as cherished as if there were only one of us. And the waters of the womb are the waters that bathe us all in the unending grace of our Creator.  Thanks be to God!


As a Presbyterian pastor, my prayers reflect what is called a “Reformed Theology” Christian perspective. We believe that faith is a gift from God and not of our own making. It is a spiritual tool God uses to whittle away our egos’ “games” and to build up our courage to seek justice in the face of the unjust, to love kindness when violence and anxiety cry out for war, and to walk in humility and friendship toward those whom others despise. Faith seeks understanding, nurtures gratitude, cultivates compassion, feeds forgiving hearts, and shapes our calendars and our finances with generosity. God’s purposes of Goodness within community become visible and viable as persons humbled and tamed by God pursue peace, inclusivity, and a joyful earthly wellness for all. Such living is Heaven on Earth. 

Our Sacred Stories tell us that the Presence of God is an eternal, ineffable, Mystery of Goodness in the NOW, and “like a weaned child with its mother” (Psalm 131.2) we are so secure in her love, we are free to take our first steps toward adulthood. Secure in God’s Abiding Presence, we are made free to confess and find pardon for sin, which is redemption, our salvation (Psalm 51). 

For Jesus and the Jewish community in which he was raised, that Way (“Halakhah”) was a comprehensive, emcompassing way of life that included religion, philosophy, and culture with their basic text the Torah and the ancient oral traditions as their interpretive lens.  The command was clear to take care of “widows and orphans” and “strangers,” but it was also clear to keep themselves “pure” in their devotion to God. 

But by Jesus’ time, the purity codes became the “plumbline” by which they judged themselves and others so that “the unclean—the  lame, the poor, the diseased”—were ignored, shunned, and shamed.  The oral tradition and texts that have become the Church’s interpretive lens of the life and death of Jesus (the New Testament) tell us that Jesus was eventually executed because he preached against that exclusivity, because he touched and healed “the sinners,” and beause he demonstrated by his life that radical humility, compassion, mercy, justice, and unmitigated hospitality are the true “plumblines” by which God judgements are rendered.  And when they are lived out, resurrection is a real life experience as the suffering and hopeless are “lifted up” into a place of honor at the head of a Thanksgiving Table where the Abiding Presence is the host/hostess.

The ancient mystics were transformed by their experiences of this saving Presence, which is often called the Cosmic Christ by Jesus’ followers. This Presence is actively “weaving” each of us and all of us, regardless of beliefs or non beliefs, into a vibrant organism of Goodness within the Matrix of Creation.  Christian mystics then and now proclaim that Jesus is the union of human and divine in space and time, and the Christ is the eternal union of matter and Spirit from the beginning of time. (Richard Rohr). For Christians then, we follow the Way of Jesus to do our own bit of  “weaving” for the Goodness of  the union of human and divine in space and time  and of the the eternal union of matter and Spirit from the beginning of time . We are not called to believe “in” Jesus; we are called to “be” the radically humble mind, the open and reaching hands, the broken and forgiving heart, the royal hospitality, the bubbling joy, the eterna love, and the healing grace of Jesus Christ. 

Other ancient religions and philosophies have come up with these same wisdoms, proclaimed in different terms, but all true wisdom points to compassion, humility, inclusivity, forgiveness and hospitality of heart and home as the true hallmarks of a “becoming” life. 

When these hallmarks are lived out, then God’s saving grace, God’s salvation is the result of the help, hope, and ease of suffering. Salvation is not a “prize” the righteous are awarded at the end of life.  It is the ability to start anew. Salvation
is NOT sin perfectly avoided, for “missing the mark” is part of what it means to be human. Salvation is sin turned on its head and used in our favor, mending and redeeming our lives in the HERE and the NOW. It is light coming from the darkness. Just like energy and matter are correlative, so sin and salvation are correlative terms—two ends of the single thread of redemption within the Matrix of Grace.

A part of that “thread of redemption” is the gift of prayer, the gift of intimate relationship with that abiding Presence. So, throughout my years of pastoring and spiritual leadership, rather than just saying that “you are in my thoughts and prayers,” to parishioners, friends, family and even to strangers in need, I have written prayer cards, to communicate to them the context of my faith and the interior of my petitions to God. 

Over and over recipients have told me they not only find joy or comfort in receiving them, they often re-read them, especially in difficult times, even months or years later. Some people have carried them with them for years and others have had them framed. These responses are not because they are my prayers, but because they can be a taste of the “milk” of God’s wet-nurse feeding within the Matrix of Grace.

Other ministers in the throes of the busy life of the church have asked me to share these prayers as a springboard for writing their own prayer cards.  And still others, people of faith who think of themselves as “prayer pipsqueaks,” have asked for a format that they can use.  So, the following fill-in-the-blanks collection is intended to give family, friends, church professionals, and prayer pipsqueaks a useful format for their own prayers to share.  They may simply be copied with the blanks filled-in and the pronouns changed appropriately, or may be radically altered, as the Spirit guides.

I have a three-fold approach to writing prayers.  First, I spend quiet time in contemplation upon the recipient and the reason I’m writing the prayer. Next I meditate upon nature, scripture, hymns or songs, poetry, works of art, or simply open up my right brain in silence for spiritual receptivity with no goal in mind. 

Then, I take an invitation-sized card, and write a short introductory note, and include a verse of the Scripture or a line from a song. I try not to let the need for words or a limited time to write them get in the way of this “Eucharistic” offering to God and the recipients. 

If you decide to follow this practice, then lift up your heart in gratitude for them and for the promise of God’s Spirit leading you. Relax in the Presence, and allow your mind to flow in it. When you’ve shaped and honed the prayer, you may not always understand exactly why you wrote what you did, but you really don’t need to know. Trust that God is communicating to them through you and that the recipient will be fed. And if you don’t trust God, act as if you do.  As Ernest Hemingway wrote, “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”  I hope you will find your “cup running over” as you pour out your compassion and love trusting that God’s going to do what God does best through your small efforts. 

Write the prayer, address and stamp it, and send it through the mail, or bring it with you in a visit and leave it for them to read after you leave.  People greatly appreciate the gift of time and effort this method requires. My handwriting is legible and I believe brings with it a little of the light of my “bio-essence.” However, life is what it is, and the second best conveyance is by email or some other form of digital communication.  I also find occasion to offer my prayers over the phone to someone in crisis.

The following prayers reflect a wide scope of situations people find themselves in, many of which are traumatizing or difficult to talk about.  But part of the work of the prayer—part of the gift of the prayer— is to give the recipient a more gracious, perhaps a kinder way, less traumatizing way to frame their experience.  May it be so for those for whom you write your prayers.
Too often we hear people talk about prayer as if it’s some sort of a magic button that we push to make God do what we want God to do, like a “fix it quick” or “send money now” childish demand.  But it is not possible to make Grace Itself more gracious.  Praying is a spiritual practice that’s more like bringing others home as  we’re checking in with Mom. 

In their book, Primary Speech: A Psychology of Prayer, Doctors Ann and Barry Ulanov write about prayer as a means of drawing near to God bringing the fullness of our personhood with a sense of full-disclosure to the One who knows us best. As we write our prayers for others, we are giving God the gift of self and the gift of others as we sweep them into this correspondence of grace among the three of us. They are our personal invitation into the interstices within the Matrix of Grace, where Grace Itself pours out healing energy with loving care.  It is the hospitality like that of a mother’s love that reassures them they are not alone.
The Matrix is the everlasting PLACE of God’s Presence. Greek gives us the word topos from which we get “topography” and its ordinary meaning of place.  But Greek also has the amazing concept of chora, “wet-nurse feeding,” where a space takes on an atmosphere of special meaning because what has happened there has been greatly fulfilling and nurturing. Life, including the human species, is a product of 13.7 billion chronos years of evolution within the eternal chora of the Matrix.

The Greek word charis means “grace, merciful kindness and life.”  Our English word “gratitude” is built off of that root plus the prefix "eu" - meaning good or pleasing - and comes out as eucharistia.  The Matrix of Grace is the habitat where the goodness of life abounds in an entanglement of possibilities—a “butterfly effect” of merciful kindness where Eucharistic Goodness springs forth in the direst of circumstance and brings us to our knees in gratitude. 

Mercy, loving kindness, forgiveness, generosity, and humility are actions expressed through other human beings where we are made able to “see” the ineffable, invisible God. The attributes of the God we “see” don’t happen in a void of space.  Rather they happen within the life-brimming interstices of our relationships with others, with Nature, with God, and with our selves. Within the eternal Matrix, day-by-day, we learn how to love God: with compassionate acts of kindness or justice to our neighbors. We learn how to love ourselves: with self-compassion knowing we are mere human beings who are divinely bound to God and to one another.

The Latin root of “religion” is religio, meaning “to bind.” In the Matrix of Grace we are all bound to God and to one another within the birthing waters of God’s compassionate love. Even the word “compassion” involves another, as we “co-suffer” or “walk with” those who suffer, as they are with us in our suffering.

Monods’ “Anything that is true of E coli must be true of elephants, except more so” gently reminds us that if one suffers, we all suffer, and the Matrix suffers too “except more so.”  Within the suffering Matrix, God “co-suffers” with us.  It is the habitat where merciful kindness puts it roots “down in our hearts” while grace generates gratitude. Walt Whitman puts it this way in “Song of Myself”: I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person.” 

Blest be the prayers that flow from compassion for they are the ribbons of grace that link us together as surely as does the cosmic dust we share. Within the darkness of human frailty fraught with violence, suffering, disease, sorrows, and death, the luminosity of the Matrix shines forth in an eternal “wet nurse feeding” of grace, especially when hearts and lives are empty of meaning or hope. 

Poet Mary Oliver says. “The patterns of our lives reveal us.  Our habits measure us.” I would add that the patterns of our lives reveal God and our habits measure the power of God’s grace to fill us with new life. 

In her book, My Stroke of Insight, (begin page 29) brain scientist and massive stroke victim Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, describes the mechanism of our brains that create and increase those amazing times we experience that “new life,” that resurrection life with us: Moment by moment, our right mind creates a master collage of what this moment in time looks like, sounds like, tastes like, smells like, and feels like . . . Unlike the left brain, moments don’t come and go in a rush, but rather are rich with sensations, thoughts, emotions, and often, physiological responses.  Information processed in this way allows us to take an immediate inventory about the space around us and our relationship to it. . .In it, no time exists other than the present moment, and each moment is vibrant with sensation.  Life or death occurs in the present moment.  The experience of joy happens in the present moment, and each moment is vibrant with sensation.  Our perception and experience of connection with something greater than ourselves occurs in the present moment. This is where creativity, spontaneity, improvisation and imaginative problem solving all occur.  It is the home in our heads where we experience love, compassion, joy, peace, a sense of oneness with others, and a sense of unity with God. I believe this description of our right brains sketches an excellent reflection of the Matrix of Grace.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel says, “Prayer begins at the edge of emptiness.”  If we think of our prayers as God’s “wet-nurse feeding” of the world’s hunger and thirst, then the topography of emptiness has unlimited room for God’s chora to fill those persons and situations for whom we pray. What greater gift can we offer than prayers founded on gratitude, and filled with the “milk” of God’s Goodness? 

May the gratitude we express to God and the compassionate words we write for others be our own “eucharistic“ cosmic link between the “no” of the world and the “YES!” of Go.  Within the eternal NOW and on the edge of emptiness in our own time and in our own place may they help seed new life and hope. Hallelujah!
A "quantum” is the smallest amount of many forms of energy (for example, light.)  Our bodies are packages of the energy of the Cosmos. Quantum theory has shown that an electron, propelled by blades, can disappear from one place and reappear instantly in another without visiting the space in between.  This is called a “quantum leap” for which Niels Bohr won the Nobel Prize in 1922. 

Through prayer and meditation we humans can literally raise the electrical activity around us and change the atmosphere for good.  MRI studies have shown that when prayer and meditation are done in concert with others who are “experts” in the practice, whole cities can be affected.  The raised electrical activity has been proven not just by the machines that measure such things but by corresponding drops in crime rates where the studies are being conducted. 

I love the Eastern tradition of offering the word “Namaste” accompanied with a bow and with the hands in a prayer position that recognizes that the Goodness of the life force within us as individuals is the same as that within everything and everyone else. 

I use that as a template for “quantum” prayers that allow me to “pray without ceasing” without using words; they are my personal “Namaste” to the Goodness of the Life Force. I place my hands in a prayer position as a simple motion that means to me “Thy will be done” as I think of the person or situation I am praying for. Then I lift my index finger and “flick” the electrons around me in an upward manner, sending my physical and spiritual energy outward.  That is the complete prayer. I don’t know what happens to them, but I like to believe the electrons of these prayer packages pierce the fabric of space like gifts into the Matrix.

Believing that God has full knowledge of what that person needs, that I don’t need words, in fact they sometimes get in the way of the sudden need I may have to pray for someone. So I think of these prayers as “customized quantum leapers” where the package of good will and hope is instantly surrounding those for whom we pray. I am able to pray for many more people this way, and when a tragedy occurs when a great number of people are hurt or in need, this practice of a simple gesture, using all of my fingers, is a way to connect with them all physically as “prayer hugs” sent in a quantum leap.

However God receives or “hears” our prayers, we’ve done our part.  Within the Matrix of Grace God may use our words, may use our gestures, may use our love and spiritual energy as a rocking chair, or a lullaby; as a nourishing meal of hope or joy; as a hug or a kiss of blessing; as a sword of righteousness, or even as the anointing oil for a person’s journey into death. In these ways prayer truly does “work.” 

It also “works” on us, as God transforms us through the act of praying for others. We become more attentive to the people and the world around us, more careful of the impact of our words, more apt to start using our spiritual words as “everyday” words to support and encourage, to love, and to bless.  And we might also find that some of our everyday conversations become unintentional “prayers” we sprinkle our energy/matter into the Matrix. 
·      Chapter I: Family Life 
·      Chapter II: Healing and Recovery
·      Chapter III: Sorrowful Times 
·      Chapter IV: Church 
·      Appendix 
List 1: Psalter Suggestions for Addressing God. This offers a collection of Psalm phrases that may be helpful in choosing your metaphors and stimulate your creativity. 
List 2: Additional Suggestions for Addressing God lists a variety of ways to address God that may help expand your prayer vocabulary beyond those found in the Psalms.
List 3: Suggested Scriptures for prayers with the sick.

The Scripture quotations contained herein are from The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Anglicized Edition; copyright ™1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America, and are used by permission.  All rights reserved.

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