I confess that I have only caught up with a project, launched at the beginning of April. This involved a million free prayer cards being delivered to cathedrals in England and Wales and to some other churches across the country as part of a really creative response to people’s experience of the pandemic. These cards are also available through CPO – the ‘Christian Publishing Company’ based in Worthing (see cpo.org.uk).
I first noticed these cards when visiting Lincoln Cathedral the other week; and then I discovered them on display in Chelmsford Cathedral (where I worship) for people to use and take away with them. Beautifully produced, on one side is the issue being addressed together with an arresting image or photo, and on the other side is a quotation from The Message, Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the Bible followed by a short prayer. There are twelve prayer cards:
Feeling Sad or Anxious
Looking for God
Struggling with Change
Worried about Someone
Interestingly, the experience of Chelmsford Cathedral, the most popular issue by far is ‘Feeling Sad or Anxious’. Headed by a quotation from Psalm 46.1: “God is a safe place hide, ready to help when we need him” (The Message), is a short prayer:
I’m in a really dark place
Life is very hard and painful just now.
I’m really struggling.
Please help me.
Give me the courage and strength to face each day.
Thank you that even in dark times I need not feel alone
Because you are with me.
According to Prof Dee Dyas of the University of York:
Research clearly shows that people of all faiths and none are interested in spiritual exploration, but people are often not sure if it is ‘OK’ to talk to God about their own lives and needs. We are still seeing the impact of the pandemic in terms of greatly increased experience of grief, loneliness, and uncertainty about the future.
I noted two things. First, these attractive prayer cards are small enough to put in a wallet – they measure around 3” x 4”. (7.4 mm x 10.5 mm) and are classed as A7. Secondly, the use of The Message, which in my judgment often ‘hits the spot’ in the way in which no other translation does – although admittedly there are also occasions when it certainly doesn’t! Incidentally, if I were only to have access to three English translations of the Bible, they would be The New Revised Standard Version, The Good News Bible, and The Message.
As you can see, I am greatly impressed by these prayer cards. Indeed, I would go so far as to say every church should get hold of a sample pack, which comprises 240 cards – 20 cards of each of the topics – with a nominal charge of £5.99 to cover handling and postage. Indeed, I would encourage individuals to get hold of some of these cards too – they are ideal to give to friends who may be struggling and could provide a great conversation starter. I have never been so enthusiastic for a set of prayer cards!
On reflection, there is another way of using these cards. If I were a minister of a local church, then I would be tempted to preach a Sunday morning series of sermons dealing with these twelve issues and based on the twelve Scripture texts taken from The Message. At the same time I would ensure that at each of the twelve Sunday services copies of the prayer card in question would be handed out to every member of the congregation. Yes, it would cost something, but what a great Kingdom investment that could be – in terms of the lives of those present, or perhaps also in terms of some members of the congregation passing on the card to a friend at work or at the gym or wherever.