What Are Some Short Prayers for Religious Services?
Leading a religious service is never easy, especially if you’re a layperson. Finding words that inspire and capture some sense of the divine or universal truth isn’t something most people can just do on the spot, yet without them, a service won’t have the power to lift people’s spirits and give them the motivation they may be looking for.
If you’ve been tasked with leading prayers during a service or are even just looking for help finding words to guide your own personal prayer, don’t worry; you don’t have to make things up from scratch. There are plenty of eloquent and meaningful prayers already out there that can be adapted for many occasions. These prayers will help you find the words you need. And who knows? They may even inspire you to create prayers of your own.
A Prayer for Peace
If you’re leading a prayer with other people, it’s likely that each person in your group is dealing with different challenges in life, many of which you may not be aware of. Finding a prayer that can speak to all of those different problems is no easy feat, but one approach you can take is to pray for peace. This peace can take the form of the end of conflict in the outside world, but it can also refer to finding peace within ourselves that in turn can help us face the outside world. Consider this prayer from the Church of England:
O God, who would fold both heaven and earth in a single peace:
let the design of thy great love
lighten upon the waste of our wraths and sorrows:
and give peace to thy Church,
peace among nations,
peace in our dwellings,
and peace in our hearts:
through thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ.
This prayer calls for peace in the outside world, but it also encourages people to think about peace in their own lives and within themselves. Focusing on peace in both senses is as useful at the beginning of a religious service as at the end, so there are few situations where you can go with this prayer.
A Prayer for Health
While many Americans associate the idea of prayer with Christianity, most religions have prayers of their own, and they usually touch on the same questions about life, spirituality and moral purpose. Consider the following prayer from the Quran (2:155-156):
In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful:
God Almighty, we seek refuge with You from all diseases (except old age);
You are the Great Curer; there is no cure except through You;
We beseech You to cure those that are ill from this disease, to protect those who are healthy and to grant us guidance so that
we may be among those who are patient in adversity and who, when calamity befalls them say, “Verily, unto God we belong
and unto Him we shall return.”
This prayer speaks to everything from the challenges of living with physical or mental health issues to questions of death and how to face it. What’s more, because it also speaks to the need for wisdom and faith in the face of hardship, this prayer has a message that is relevant to nearly everyone.
An Interfaith Prayer
There are also times when leading a religious service when there may be people of other faiths present. In such situations, finding a prayer that actively acknowledges religious differences while emphasizing what you have in common can go a long way toward achieving a fruitful worship experience. Consider this poem from Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer:
Blessed is God who creates us varied and many, needing one another.
Blessed are our traditions, varied and many, requiring each other.
Blessed is our time together.
May it provide nourishment for us and for our world.
This prayer celebrates the faiths of all people in attendance while giving each of them room to attach their own religious symbolism to it. It may be short, but when it will help your interfaith service feel truly inclusive.
A Prayer of Service
While it’s common for religious services to provide guidance on how to overcome struggles in one’s own life, they can also help inspire people to take action and help others. If you’re looking for a prayer that can help motivate people in that way, consider the words of Shantideva, a Buddhist monk:
May I be a guard for those who need protection
A guide for those on the path
A boat, a raft, a bridge for those who wish to cross the flood
May I be a lamp in the darkness
A resting place for the weary
A healing medicine for all who are sick
A vase of plenty, a tree of miracles
And for the boundless multitudes of living beings
May I bring sustenance and awakening
Enduring like the earth and sky
Until all beings are freed from sorrow
And all are awakened.
This prayer is a personal favorite of Tenzin Gyatso, who you may know as the Dalai Lama. It also has the added benefit of not mentioning any religious deities, which can make it a great choice when holding a service that includes nonreligious people.