Prayers for the Body

Last week I was the person to share morning and evening prayers for the wonderful online faith community “Casa — an Experiment in Doing Church.” I encourage you to visit it on Facebook. I wrote my morning prayers about the human body and wanted to share these here with you.

Day 1  May God’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you. Numbers 6: 25

Bless my face, O God, today.
Help me to recognize the hints of others
in my features or expressions –
a parent, a child, a step-grandparent –
and remember them.
Help me to love
those things I have wished away –
the wrinkles or acne,
the drooping eye, chin hair,
the scar, or the way my teeth jut —
all that makes me precious to you.

Bless my face, O God, today.
Touch my eyes or ears or nose –
whichever way I most perceive
what is all around me.
Sharpen my senses —
to hear birds, see the vein of quartz
in a granite gravestone,
smell cinnamon,
woodsmoke or subway.

Bless wind getting behind my glasses.
Bless the cool hand of a nurse
on my forehead, perhaps
the only human touch today.
Bless the words I say,
the food my lips touch,
the arranging of the lines
around my mouth into a smile –

that reflects your shine, Amen

Day 2   How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns. Isaiah 52: 7

Bless my wheelchair and my cane,
my walker and my blades –
all these beautiful feet.

Bless my unsightly bunions
and “whole lotta guava” pink toenails.
Ease my plantar fasciitis,
put a Shrek Band-Aid on my blister.

Bless my feet on the mountains,
and on the dance floor
(both stepped upon and stepping).
Bless them in warm beach sand,
bubble bath, bricks,
and that bad choice in shoes.

Bless my willingness
to live out the cliché
of walking
in someone else’s shoes,
and my standing up for justice
even if it looks like sitting down
and emailing my senators.

Bless me on the charity walk,
and with the dog leash.

Bless all first steps —
of a baby or an elder in rehab,
or someone who walks into
a neighborhood
that makes them afraid.

Bless my feet, today, God –
for you called them beautiful,
Jesus bent down with a towel
around his waist,
to wash away their road dust,

and the Spirit always tickles.

Day 3  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matt.6:21

Bless, O God, the hearts of us –
those who have bypass surgery and those
who do cardio
like crazy to avoid it,
those who have had transplants
and the families who have given
a heart from one they treasured.

Bless, O God, the hearts of us –
those with broken hearts
from a romance lost,
a companion animal put to sleep,
a child who is running away.

Bless, O God, the hearts of us –
those with closed hearts
because of something past,
or tired of trying,
or frightened of the next step,
and those with heart-on-a-sleeve,
loving fast, fickle,
and hoping to get away
before it hurts.

Bless even those called
heartless
who count treasure
as the world measures
not as love discovers,
or who have come to enjoy
the pain of others
because of damage long ago.

Bless, O God, the hearts of us –
all the beats of this day,

a walk we take for cardiac care,
a phone call to a friend with angina,
the good listen we give someone
who is madly in love
(no matter how frequently),

and way we remind ourselves
to love and also say so —
again and again and again.

Day 4    I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139: 14

Bless my elbow,
the way it brings a cup to my lips,
bends slightly outward
when I put a crutch under my shoulder,
joints up with a little grease
to become a metaphor for work –
good work, hard work,
especially the kind of work
that takes trying.

Bless the rough vulnerable
ugliness of its skin
the hidden spot that hurts so much,
so startlingly much,
and the tender map on the inside
where they draw blood.

Bless the do-si-do of elbow,
drops that sparkle off the Australian crawl,
bowler’s strike, pitcher’s strike,
the elbow-on-the-table casualness
of eating corn bread down home,
the personal cowcatcher
technique
that gets me through a New York crowd,

the way it positions my hand
to do all the things a hand must do
but cannot do,
unless it is placed just so,

the way a pair of elbows make wings,
when I put my hands on my hips,
exasperated at a child of mine,
or proud, so proud
of a job well done.

Bless my elbow –
the way it lifts a lantern,
opens my arms for a holding,
props me up
when I hear a sound in the night.

Day 5    On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. 1 Corinthians 12:22-24a

God, here’s kidney praise,
for these sturdy little poison-cleaners,
and thank you for my stretchy bladder,
that lasts a Sunday service long.

God you created the awesome anus,
and the bright elastic rectum,
my sphincter, like a flute stop
that keeps the farts in
during social occasions,
and a labyrinth of intestines,
more prayerful somedays than Chartres.

I am grateful for my delight
in changing my grandchild’s diapers,
lovely autumn dog walks
with bags of poop,
the confidence that someday
when I am leaky,
I can depend on depends.

I pray for those on dialysis today,
for all those watching
that mean recidivist — bladder cancer,
or living with colorectal disease,
and those with dementia
that’s really urinary tract infection.

Jesus said a handful of feces
smells sweeter in your nose, O God,
than many human words –

the cruel ones and the lies,
empty promises, slick manipulation,
and the violence that spews forth
from a bigot’s mouth
and cannot be flushed away Amen.

Day 6      I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am God. Ezekiel 37:6

Bless, O God, our skin –
that holds each one of us together,
and rips communities apart.

Bless, O God, our skin,
that keeps blood in
and causes the shedding of blood.

For we do not want to deny or ignore
this skin in all its beauty —
shades of color, wrinkles and moles,
heel skin and inner wrist skin,
head where there used to be hair skin,
infant belly skin.

We love our skin,
we want to save our skins,
(some of us want to be skin-nier),
we don’t want to get under
other people’s skins …

but we have taken
your vulnerable, sexy, stretchy,
shiny, sagging,
sweet slipcover of the human form
and made it a metaphor
to justify something inside
that wants to
belittle, hate, enslave, degrade, kill —
others of your children.

Re-Ezekiel us, O God,
from all the valleys of bones
we have dug —
give us not only muscles and skin,
but also give us breath and Spirit,
so we know you are God
and recognize the Images of you
all around us. Amen

Day 7    Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness Genesis 1: 26a Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’ John 11: 44b

Help me, O God, to love my body,
to call my body beautiful
in spite stereotypes all around me
about age or weight or shape or color,
in spite of scars and illness,
in spite of what has happened to it.

Unbind my incontrovertible
likeness to you.

I celebrate my sexuality,
my taste for food,
the exquisite joy of sleeping,
the wonder of waking up,
and really waking up.

I rejoice in my fingerprints
my hair … or not,
my teeth … or some,
my muscles, bones and cartilage
my ligaments and tendons,
some blisters, maybe a bunion,
freckles, also surgical bits
of metal and plastic,
the smell of my sweat,
my eyes, my ears, my nose,
my tongue –
all the things I can do
with my tongue.

God, help me to pray naked,
and love you,
with the goose bumps of awe.

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