➣ Prayers for Public Events
by Deborah Grassman
I’m often asked to provide prayer for public functions. When I pray, I include the principles of abiding and reckoning as outlined in The Hero Within because at the core of authentic healing is prayer. Anytime I am abiding with my feelings, reckoning with life situations, I am living a prayer; I am bringing conscious intention to my thoughts, words, and actions. I am also embracing the Opus Peace Prayer: Cultivate in me, Oh God, the willingness to re-own and re-home scattered pieces of myself so that I might be restored to Your wholeness. Grow in me the honesty, courage, and humility to release my fears of who I am and who I am not. Fuel me with your Grace. Amen.
These are some of the public prayers that I have used. The first is a prayer I provide at workshops for clinicians. The subsequent prayers were provided respectively at a Women’s Day Conference, a Nurse Week Ceremony, a Martin Luther King Day celebration, a Community Prayer Breakfast, and my Commissioning Ceremony.
A Prayer for Clinicians
by Deborah Grassman
“I ask that we close our eyes and go into that deeper part of ourselves… that place that connects with peace… that place that connects with Love… that place beyond our material selves… to that place that generates vitality…into our souls…
Take a minute to think about all the patients and families you’ve cared for in your career… Think about all the patients and families you are caring for now… Take a minute to acknowledge the difficulty of caring for some patients. Silently acknowledge the struggle it sometimes requires to bring kindness to some people who may not be so kindly themselves. Acknowledge how lonely it sometimes feels; how tiring it can be.
Now take a deep breath and let your breath take you to that deeper place within you… that place where there is energy to love the unlovable… energy to touch the untouchable… to heal the unhealable. Acknowledge your need for this energy and your willingness to receive the vitalizing energy from within your soul.
Now, think about all the patients and families that you have yet to care for at some point on their future journey… Thank them in advance for the privilege of serving them. In your heart, ask them to let you abide with them… to abide their heartaches and hope… to abide their suffering. Acknowledge the ways in which you might let them down… Be willing to own that (not in a blaming way, but simply letting it be instructive)… Acknowledge the ways in which you, too, are a wounded healer… In your heart, seek to be re-formed by the wisdom of your patients and their families as they redeem their suffering.
As you leave this space, may you go forth with a blessing:
May each of you leave here today with a deeper sense of who you really are.
May you gain a deeper sense of your connection with each other, your patients, and with your own soul.
May you have a deeper sense of purpose and greater understanding of your mission in life and in the agency where you provide care.
May you have a profound sense of how important you are to your patients, their families, to each other, to me, to your own families, and to the Timeless Source of Energy who created all of us together.
Mainly, I thank each of you here for having a heart that is willing to suffer the brokenness of this world. Your footprints touch my soul, and I am healed.”
Prayer for a Women’s Day Conference
by Deborah Grassman
We are grateful we can join together this day – as women, as men, as people who work together – as people who pray together as we are now. Dear God, we are truly grateful that this country and this institution know the value of acknowledging and honoring the spiritual nature of each one of us, and that we can have this opportunity to gather as we are this moment.
Dear God, as women, we sometimes struggle with our roles in society. Sometimes we feel pulled in many different directions at the same time. Sometimes we strive to adopt a male-like image that may not exactly fit us. Sometimes we try to conform to a male-dominated culture that has not yet completely come to understand the gifts we, as women, offer. Sometimes God, we, ourselves, use sexuality in our dress or subtle ways we act to gain power in the world; we get fooled into believing the gifts valued by society are the molds we should try to become rather than the mold You would have us become.
God, help each of us guard against trying to be like men – just for the sake of being like men. Help us be able to discern between “equality” and “mimicking” lest we betray the very gifts of womanhood you have given us – the very gifts you need in this world – the very gifts you created to fulfill our soulful natures. God, help us accept those gifts and give us the courage to resist being anything other than the unique woman you have created each of us to be. Help us know and understand our inner beauty – to know and understand our soulfulness – to know and understand You. Amen.”
A Prayer for Nurse Week Ceremonies
by Deborah Grassman
“Dear Heavenly Father,
We come before you this day as your sons and daughters, united in the spirit of God. We come before you recognizing the suffering in our world. We ask you this day to open us to our deeper selves so that we might learn the lessons you would have for us in our earthly strife.
We come before you this day recognizing the many gifts that you have provided this Medical Center that allows us to do your healing work. Sometimes, though, we struggle with our humanness. Sometimes, God, we feel so alone as we tend your ill and lame. Sometimes, God, we feel burdened when we are needed to carry the load for someone else or face the tragedies we see each day.
Dear God, it is so hard to see your light in some of our patients. We get frustrated. Sometimes we feel unappreciated or even mistreated by them. Sometimes we feel at odds with our coworkers, and we don’t get along with each other. Sometimes, God, it is just so darn hard to love one another. Forgive us when we fail to do that. At these times when we cannot see you clearly, guide us into love. For it is your love that heals the unhealable. It is your love that touches the untouchable. It is your love that comforts the uncomforted.
We are often called to be your angels of mercy. Open our hearts to answer that call. Fill us with your presence so that we may know you are with us on the journey. We come before you this day as a health-care community. We ask your forgiveness when we forget that we are not the true healer. We ask your forgiveness when we forget our paychecks are not our true reward.
We ask that you break us open, God. Break our hearts of stone that keep us from feeling you in one another. Break our senses that keep us from seeing and hearing you in each other. Break our spirits open when they fail to yield to your will in our lives.
Dear God, we ask you this day to re-form us into the healing ministers you call each of us to be. We ask you to re-form us into a community of healers. Re-form the ministry this Medical Center is called to offer. Broken as we are God, bring us together as we are this day. Wounded healers that we are, help us bring you to all those in our midst. Amen.”
A Prayer for Martin Luther King Day Celebration
by Deborah Grassman
“Dear Heavenly Father,
We gather here today to remember. We gather here today to celebrate and to act.
We pause to remember that each of us here is a person of prejudice. Sometimes we don’t like to admit that, God, even to ourselves. But we know that healing is not ours until we can come before you, confess our humanness, and give you the filters of prejudice in each of our minds that keep us from each other and from you.
We pause to remember Martin Luther King, Jr., – a man of courage and vision – a man who responded to your call to help us confront those dark places in our souls where injustice lurks. These dark places in our souls seduce us into thinking that the color of our skin or the characteristics of our bodies are what are important to you.
Also, we remember Martin Luther King, Sr. – a man who calls us into holiness by his example of love for you. A man who had every reason to hate and be bitter with the murders of his wife and two sons, yet he refused to hate and be bitter. He chose to love you and your people instead. We remember the healing image of him sitting with George Wallace and George Wallace asking him to pray for him and we remember Martin, Sr. saying lovingly that he would.1
And we celebrate, dear God. We celebrate that in the midst of a broken world, you are here. We celebrate that in the midst of injustice, hatred, and violence is justice, love, and peace if we but choose to turn our face from those shadows of our souls into the Light that is you. We celebrate today the gift of Martin Luther King Jr. and his Dad – men who had the courage to be you in our world – men who have been beacons calling us home to you.
Dear God, our prayer to you today is that these gifts you have given us, will call us into action. We pray the sufferings of our past as a people and as individuals are not in vain, but experiences that draw us closer to your love, your peace, your healing. You tell us we are to pray for our enemies, to pray for those that persecute us, to pray for those who hurt us. Those prayers are so hard for us to do, yet that is our prayer today. Each of us here suffer the scars of pain and injustice in our lives. Help us recognize that our pain and our anger are calling us into the action of drawing nearer to you. Our action today is prayer for all the George Wallaces in our homes, work places, and communities. We pray they might experience your healing love. And we pray for the George Wallaces in ourselves God. Those places inside us that lure us into thinking that our view is the right one and that others are not worthy, those places inside us that deceive us into thinking we are better than others because they are different and not worthy of our respect. We give our prejudices to you, God. We give you the injustice of our arrogance and self-righteousness that separate us from others and ask that you transform them with your love and forgiveness into acts of kindness and mercy that we may be lights in the midst of the darkness of a broken world. Amen.”
1George Wallace was the governor of Alabama who resisted the civil rights movement; he was an outspoken racist in the 1960s who opposed Martin Luther King, Jr.
2King, ML, Sr. (1980). Daddy King: An Autobiography. NY: Morrow.
A Prayer for a Community Prayer Breakfast
by Deborah Grassman
“I feel honored to be here especially when I read the history and mission of this prayer breakfast, and for the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about my role today in offering prayer, and the conclusion that I’ve come to is to offer a prayer ABOUT prayer itself. To provide a context, however, I need to tell you that two days ago, I returned from 3 weeks in Guatemala. I had planned to go there with a friend to visit her brother who lived in a small village. BUT then we heard that the best place in the world to celebrate holy week is Antigua because they take it very seriously there. So, my vacation changed into a pilgrimage. Now for the past year, I had made a commitment to take prayer more seriously and to do it twice each day, using quotes from Jesus as the springboard for my reflections. So, Antigua fit right into my prayer commitment.
One day, my friends were going to explore Antigua, but I stayed behind to pray…keeping my commitment, being a good Christian. Right? Then, I realized that I wasn’t praying. I was just going through the motions because my heart was with my friends and my desire to be with them. So, I prayed: “Dear God, Help me stop being a hypocrite during my time with You.” And then I left to be with my friends. An hour later, I realized that I had left my paper with the quotes and all my notes on the chair of the hotel balcony. So, I raced back to retrieve it, and it was gone! Nowhere to be found: “All right God. I get it. You’re showing me my hypocrisy.” But, it didn’t stop there.
That night I had a dream: In the dream, my house was flooded. I went to see if my neighbors could help. They weren’t home, but I could see that their house had NOT flooded. So I thought, “I’m going to need their help as my house gets renovated but I didn’t even get them a Christmas present.” So, I went back to my house and found some token gift (or re-gift) and took it back to their house so they would think that I cared about them. Then I woke up and I immediately recognized what prayer hypocrisy is:
– I get in some kind of flood…some kind of trouble. I go to ask God for help. He’s not home. Why? Because I’m giving him TOKENS of my attention: time when it’s convenient, my love as long as it doesn’t cost me too much or is too much sacrifice.
Well, I went to the Bible and looked up the word “prayer” and in Isaiah 55, I found this: “Come to me with your ears wide open. For the life of your soul is at stake. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and my ways are completely different than yours.” That’s when I realized that I didn’t have a clue about what prayer is really about because I didn’t know how to LISTEN to the voice of God; I was trying to change Him to fit in MY mind.
So, I come before you today with a contrite heart, sharing my struggle of prayer with you, and feeling a bit unworthy of standing before you. But, somehow it seems fitting, that before we can pray for others, we must come to grips with our own TRUTH about prayer.
Dear Heavenly Father,
We come before you today confessing that we often do not know Your ways…we often do not know how to enter Your silence so we can listen to You. We come before You confessing that we sometimes go through the motions of prayer when our hearts are really elsewhere. We ask that You deliver us from our pride that makes us think that we are praying when we are not. Deliver us from our inability and sometimes unwillingness to pray. Grow in us, instead, a CLEAN HEART – a heart that is honest so we don’t fool ourselves into thinking that we’re praying when we’re not; Grow in us a heart that is humble so that we can learn Your ways including how to pray. And grow Courage in our hearts, Dear God: that each man here, that each woman here, will be leaders in their homes, workplaces, and this community by coming to You with a heart that is first and foremost, WILLING to pray. Amen”
Deborah’s Commissioning Ceremony
In many ways, Opus Peace has been a lifetime developing. However, events over the past year have crystallized its formation. Although unnamed, its formal birthing into the world probably began on January 6, 2013 when I decided to do a public commissioning of my work, especially as it related to my new book, The Hero Within: Redeeming the Destiny We Were Born to Fulfill. Held at the Franciscan Center in Tampa on the shores of the Hillsborough River, about 60 people attended.
Here is the message I relayed that day. It provides insight into the origins of Opus Peace, and in its own way, is a prayer…
“There are important decisions we all make as we traverse our lives. When we were young, we did not always well-appreciate the importance of many of these decisions and their life-lasting impact. I don’t remember making a conscious decision to excel in school when I was a child. I loved learning and I got attention for being a good student. I was happy to do whatever it took to achieve educational success.
Marriage is another important decision many of us make. I knew its importance, yet at age 19, I didn’t really realize how pervasive that decision would be. All I really knew was that I was in love with a man who wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. He was handsome, enjoyed doing many of the things I enjoyed, and he wanted a family. Nothing else seemed to matter. It didn’t seem like I needed to make a conscious decision to have children. It was what I had always wanted. Little did I realize how all-consuming and life-lasting that commitment would be. Although it didn’t always come naturally, I learned how to protect and advocate for my children, in many ways becoming a better mother to them as they got older because I was growing up myself.
My decision to become a nurse was certainly one that I had well thought out. However, the decision was based primarily on practical considerations: flexible hours, variety of work settings, good money, and in the field of science which was my particular interest. Little did I realize how much that decision would change and grow me – especially the decision to work with Veterans, and more importantly, to work in Hospice. My decision to speak and write about Veterans and Hospice work in some ways, has not seemed like a conscious decision. Looking back, it seems like it was simply Destiny calling. Repeatedly, I was placed in situations that gave me voice to a unique perspective that others eagerly wanted to hear about and no one had previously articulated. Although the original manuscript for all three books (yes, one more is to come) was written over a four year span, the intense writing took about 6 months. I wrote into all hours of the day and night; there were times when I hardly slept for days on end. Yet, I was not fatigued. In fact, just the opposite. I literally could feel the crown of my head open and the energy was so intense that I felt expanded into my own soul. At these times, my writing was effortless, almost automatic, as if I were simply the observer. One day at work, I asked one of the nurses, Lorraine, a question, and she didn’t answer me even though she was looking directly at me. I repeated my question, and she still didn’t answer. A third time I asked, shaking her to see what was wrong. She mumbled something that I didn’t understand and then avoided me. Later, she came to me and told me that she was speechless because when she looked at me earlier, all she could see was a dazzling light that was so intense that she couldn’t believe that everyone else wasn’t seeing it too. Even though I was stunned with what she was telling me, I was not surprised because I could feel the force of the energy expanding through me when I wrote. Although I didn’t know what to call that energy then, I now know it to be Grace.
My decision to retire from the VA this past year did not come easily and yet, in some ways, was a decision that did not seem mine to make. With the growing interest in my work, increased demand for speaking, and a second book soon to appear, conflicts of interest were becoming more apparent. So, in many ways, I had no choice but to leave if I was going to continue on a path I seemed destined to fulfill.
My decision to come before you today, in the way that I am doing, is a decision that has not come lightly. Unlike many of the life-changing decisions that I’ve just described, I am fully aware of how life-changing this decision is. It comes from many years of Advent seasons in which I have carefully prayed for willingness to birth more love into the world – especially toward the people in my life that I did not love enough, and in some cases, didn’t love at all. It comes from many seasons of Lent in which I go out into the wilderness of my Soul to confront my demons and the many ways I turn away from God, turning to false gods that compete for my time, energy, and attention. It comes from twice daily meditation for the past year – a practice that had been long overdue and now a most welcome retreat into silence with my beloved. It comes from 3 dreams that I’ve had in which it has been made clear to me that I needed to bring God out of the shadows so she didn’t have to work so hard to get me to do her will – yes, in my dream, God was a woman – and a black woman at that! Today’s decision comes from six friends who for my birthday this year as I retired, bought me a portable labyrinth and then enacted a commissioning ritual to launch me on my new journey. I remember walking out of that labyrinth that day with tears in my eyes. They were unusual tears, almost indescribable. One dimension of the tears validated the suffering I had been through to get to that day. Some of the tears were tears of joy – primarily that I was blessed enough to have 6 friends who knew me so well as to know what my Soul needed and they were willing to provide that sustenance. And some of the tears were tears of trepidation – a foreshadowing of what I knew was coming, even though I did not know – a total surrendering to God’s will for my life. It was scary to even think about, yet I knew it was coming. I didn’t like the uncertainty of it. I still don’t. What if God asks me to do something I don’t want to do? What if I succumb to my fears and can’t respond the way I’m supposed to? What if I don’t like the life He’s calling me to – a life that I don’t even know what it is? During advent this year, my prayer has been: “Dear God, help me know and rejoice in Your vision for my life so I can redeem the destiny I was born to fulfill.” In meditation one morning early in the Advent season, a question arose from deep within. The question was: “Why are you afraid to live the life you have now?” I was startled, silently arguing back, “But I’m not afraid to live my life!” To which, the response was: “The life you have RIGHT NOW, why are you afraid to live it, just as it is?” I was speechless. There was the epiphany I was asking for. While I was busy coveting the life I was trying to imagine having and coveting the past for its injustices, I was missing the joys and griefs of my everyday life. I needed to let go of my fear and open up to God’s love for me so that Grace could be the fuel for my life. I suspect my outward life will not change as dramatically as my inward life will. HOW I make decisions, my methods of operation, will change because God is no longer in my shadows.
So, I stand before you today, publicly proclaiming my desire to love God – to love God enough to surrender my life to Him. This book is simply a symbol of that life. I well know that this book is going to take me places that I might have no desire to go, and yet I will go. I need your help to do this. To help me discern His will from my own and to hold me accountable when I deceive myself by covering up my fears or justifying my actions. And I need you to pray for me. I need your prayers to be the lamp unto my feet. I need you to pray that every day I love God more.
I close by summing up my 60 years on this Earth and my 30 years of personally working with 10,000 Veterans as they’ve died in 2 sentences. And these two sentences are: “Live your life for God. On your deathbed, it will be the only thing that matters.”