Wednesday, March 09, 2016

How should we pray? | Creature Prayers

Sometimes I write content for a worship resource published by Augsburg Fortress. It's called Sundays & Seasons, and you can subscribe to it online (http://sundaysandseasons.com). It's an amazing tool for worship planning.

S&S includes sample Prayers of the People. For those not familiar with liturgical worship, most Lutherans, Episcopalians, Roman Catholics, and some others offer space in the middle of worship, after the sermon and before communion, for a series of petitions praying for the needs of the world.

On average, in most liturgical churches, these prayers include petitions for:
The Universal Church, its members, and its mission 
The Nation and all in authority 
The welfare of the world 
The concerns of the local community 
Those who suffer and those in any trouble 
The departed (with commemoration of a saint when appropriate)



I've become mindful of the prayers in S&S recently because a gripe site for the ELCA regularly criticizes us for praying for creation, but not praying for the lost.

See, sometimes the prayers of the church are general. Other times, they get very specific. This past Sunday, one petition included mention of sea turtles and manatees. Apparently praying for manatee and sea turtles was shocking enough to some hearers that they made a meme (see the photo).

Since manatees are so absolutely cool, it's hard for me to understand what is offensive about praying for them. But apparently perhaps the specificity of the prayer, kind of like including in the prayers of the people a petition for our middle finger, threw people off.

But this started me wondering: what should we pray for? What if anything is off-limits? What, if anything, should be prayed for every Sunday? What are the rules?

The Bible itself has a rather capacious sense of prayer. Some examples:

1. Stars pray with us. (Psalm 148:3)
2. We can pray for the destruction of our enemies. (Psalm 54:5)
3. Groans and sighs are prayers. (Romans 8:26)
4. Acrostic poems are prayers. (Psalm 119)
5. Everything is prayer. (Phil. 4:6)
6. One can pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
7. If you pray for something with true faith it will happen. (Matthew 17:20)
8. You can pray by pouring nard over your Lord's feet and mopping them with your hair. (John 12)
9. You can pray anywhere, but there are also special places to pray. (Acts 16:16)
10. Sometimes God will refuse to listen to prayers. (Isaiah 1:15)
11. Prayer is incense. Incense is prayer. (Psalm 141)
12. Suffering is prayer (1 Peter 4:19)

So if that doesn't leave quite a lot of room for various types of prayer, I don't know what does.

But then I thought, perhaps people are offended that the prayers of the people might actually be listing specific animals. So I looked, and lo and behold, the Bible mentions just an absolute ton of animals. So, by way of conclusion I invite my readers to spend time praying for this amazing list of creatures, God's wonderful creation. God's good creation.

And of course you can pray for the lost. Perhaps start by praying for everybody who lost big chunks of the Bible and forgot the breadth of God's providential care.

  • Addax (Light-colored, large Saharan antelope) - Deuteronomy 14:5
  • Ant - Proverbs 6:6; 30:25
  • Antelope - Deuteronomy 14:5; Isaiah 51:20
  • Ape - 1 Kings 10:22
  • Bald Locust - Leviticus 11:22
  • Barn Owl - Leviticus 11:18
  • Bat - Leviticus 11:19; Isaiah 2:20
  • Bear - 1 Samuel 17:34-37; 2 Kings 2:24; Isaiah 11:7; Daniel 7:5; Revelation 13:2
  • Bee - Judges 14:8
  • Behemoth - (A monstrous and mighty land animal; Some say it's a mythical monster of ancient literature; Possible reference to dinosaurs.) Job 40:15
  • Buzzard - Isaiah 34:15
  • Camel - Genesis 24:10; Leviticus 11:4; Isaiah 30:6; Matthew 3:4; 19:24; 23:24
  • Chameleon - Leviticus 11:30
  • Cobra - Isaiah 11:8
  • Cormorant (large black water bird) - Leviticus 11:17
  • Cow - Isaiah 11:7; Daniel 4:25; Luke 14:5
  • Crane - Isaiah 38:14
  • Cricket - Leviticus 11:22
  • Deer - Deuteronomy 12:15; 14:5
  • Dog - Judges 7:5; 1 Kings 21:23-24; Ecclesiastes 9:4; Matthew 15:26-27; Luke 16:21; 2 Peter 2:22; Revelation 22:15
  • Donkey - Numbers 22:21-41; Isaiah 1:3; 30:6 John 12:14
  • Dove - Genesis 8:8; 2 Kings 6:25; Matthew 3:16; 10:16; John 2:16
  • Eagle - Exodus 19:4; Isaiah 40:31; Ezekiel 1:10; Daniel 7:4; Revelation 4:7; 12:14
  • Eagle Owl - Leviticus 11:16
  • Egyptian Vulture - Leviticus 11:18
  • Falcon - Leviticus 11:14
  • Fish - Exodus 7:18; Jonah 1:17; Matthew 14:17; 17:27; Luke 24:42; John 21:9
  • Flea - 1 Samuel 24:14; 26:20
  • Fly - Ecclesiastes 10:1
  • Fox - Judges 15:4; Nehemiah 4:3; Matthew 8:20; Luke 13:32
  • Frog - Exodus 8:2; Revelation 16:13
  • Gazelle - Deuteronomy 12:15; 14:5
  • Gecko - Leviticus 11:30
  • Gnat - Exodus 8:16; Matthew 23:24
  • Goat - 1 Samuel 17:34; Genesis 15:9; 37:31; Daniel 8:5; Leviticus 16:7; Matthew 25:33
  • Grasshopper - Leviticus 11:22
  • Great Fish (Whale) - Jonah 1:17
  • Great Owl - Leviticus 11:17
  • Hare - Leviticus 11:6
  • Hawk - Leviticus 11:16; Job 39:26
  • Heron - Leviticus 11:19
  • Hoopoe - Leviticus 11:19
  • Horse - 1 Kings 4:26; 2 Kings 2:11; Revelation 6:2-8; 19:14
  • Hyena - Isaiah 34:14
  • Hyrax (Coney or Rock Badger) - Leviticus 11:5
  • Kite - Leviticus 11:14
  • Lamb - Genesis 4:2; 1 Samuel 17:34
  • Leech - Proverbs 30:15
  • Leopard - Isaiah 11:6; Jeremiah 13:23; Daniel 7:6; Revelation 13:2
  • Leviathan - (Could be an earthly creature, crocodile; Some say it's a mythical sea monster of ancient literature; Possible reference to dinosaurs.) Isaiah 27:1; Psalm 74:14; Job 41:1
  • Lion - Judges 14:8; 1 Kings 13:24; Isaiah 30:6; 65:25; Daniel 6:7; Ezekiel 1:10; 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 4:7; 13:2
  • Lizard - Leviticus 11:30
  • Locust - Exodus 10:4; Leviticus 11:22; Joel 1:4; Matthew 3:4; Revelation 9:3
  • Maggot - Job 7:5; 17:14; 21:26; Isaiah 14:11; Mark 9:48
  • Mole Rat - Leviticus 11:29
  • Monitor Lizard - Leviticus 11:30
  • Moth - Matthew 6:19; Isaiah 50:9; 51:8
  • Mountain Sheep - Deuteronomy 14:5
  • Mourning Dove - Isaiah 38:14
  • Mule - 2 Samuel 18:9; 1 Kings 1:38
  • Ostrich - Lamentations 4:3
  • Owl - Leviticus 11:17; Isaiah 34:15; Psalm 102:6
  • Ox - 1 Samuel 11:7; 2 Samuel 6:6; 1 Kings 19:20-21; Job 40:15; Isaiah 1:3; Ezekiel 1:10
  • Partridge - 1 Samuel 26:20
  • Peacock - 1 Kings 10:22
  • Pig - Leviticus 11:7; Deuteronomy 14:8; Proverbs 11:22; Isaiah 65:4; 66:3, 17; Matthew 7:6; 8:31; 2 Peter 2:22
  • Pigeon - Genesis 15:9; Luke 2:24
  • Quail - Exodus 16:13; Numbers 11:31
  • Ram - Genesis 15:9; Exodus 25:5
  • Rat - Leviticus 11:29
  • Raven - Genesis 8:7; Leviticus 11:15; 1 Kings 17:4
  • Rodent - Isaiah 2:20
  • Roe Deer - Deuteronomy 14:5
  • Rooster - Matthew 26:34
  • Scorpion - 1 Kings 12:11, 14; Luke 10:19; Revelation 9:3, 5, 10
  • Seagull - Leviticus 11:16
  • Serpent - Genesis 3:1; Revelation 12:9
  • Sheep - Exodus 12:5; 1 Samuel 17:34; Matthew 25:33; Luke 15:4; John 10:7
  • Short-eared Owl - Leviticus 11:16
  • Snail - Psalm 58:8
  • Snake - Exodus 4:3; Numbers 21:9; Proverbs 23:32; Isaiah 11:8; 30:6; 59:5
  • Sparrow - Matthew 10:31
  • Spider - Isaiah 59:5
  • Stork - Leviticus 11:19
  • Swallow - Isaiah 38:14
  • Turtledove - Genesis 15:9; Luke 2:24
  • Viper - Isaiah 30:6; Proverbs 23:32
  • Vulture (Griffon, Bearded, and Black) - Leviticus 11:13
  • Wild Goat - Deuteronomy 14:5
  • Wild Ox - Numbers 23:22
  • Wolf - Isaiah 11:6; Matthew 7:15
  • Worm - Isaiah 66:24; Jonah 4:7

4 comments:

  1. Did you ever know that you're my hero? Excellent scholarship Pastor Clint.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I don't understand the argument over praying for manatees. We pray for people, by name, in church. Why not pray for specific animals too?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for this! I appreciate it. Any church that takes itself so seriously that I cannot pray for the most gentle and bumbling of God's creatures, the manatee, has missed the point.

    ReplyDelete
  4. For those looking for a more in-depth understanding of these magnificent, worth-praying-for creatures, look no further than John Lithgow's song (viewing on YouTube):

    From time to time I dream that I'm a manatee
    Undulating underneath the sea
    Unshackled by the chains of idle vanity
    A modest manatee, that's me

    I look just like a chubby, brown banana-tee
    As I nose along the cozy ocean floor
    Immune from human folly and inanity
    That's why a manatee is such a happy, herby bore

    I'm a manatee, I'm a manatee
    I'm every bit as wrinkled as my grannity
    No difference between my face and fanity
    A noble manatee, well, that's me

    With the dietary habits of a manatee
    I never fail to lick my platter clean
    I sprinkle seaweed on my raisin branity
    The perfect manatee cuisine

    With my wit, sophistication and urbanity
    I dignify my watery domain
    No one near will ever hear me use profanity
    Because a manatee has his image to maintain

    I'm a manatee, I'm a manatee
    I keep my reputation spick and spanity
    No difference between my face and fanity
    A speakly manatee, well, that's me

    Encumbered by my lumbering giganity
    I'm thought to be an ocean going brute
    The least appealing creature on the planety
    But to a manatee, I'm cute

    I prefer my world of silence and of sanity
    But my underwater friends don't all agree
    For whenever I am dreaming I'm a manatee
    Somewhere a manatee is dreaming that he is me

    I'm a manatee, I'm a manatee
    Outside the fold of boring old humanity
    No difference between my face and fanity
    I'm a rolly polly, jelly rolly, sugar bowly
    Heart and souly manatee, that's me

    ReplyDelete