What Are We Praying for When We “Pray about Hurricane Matthew”?


What are we praying for when we pray for those affected by or “about” Hurricane Matthew?  There should be some easy and simple answers.  After all, this happens on a regular basis.  Storms are a fact of life.  Even people I never see in church seem to be trying out prayer.  We’re praying for those in the path of the storm, those most directly affected by the wind and rain.  This covers lots of people and animals.  Without going into specifics, you’ve just prayed for the dogs, cats, Firefighters, EMT’s, linemen, people who refused to evacuate, people who did evacuate, and guys from the weather channel.  In this instance, praying for those in the path of Hurricane Matthew means you’re praying for upwards of 20 million people.  Is that how prayer is supposed to work?  In one fell swoop, we’ve covered it all, a bcc message to God and we’ve got it done?  Something about that approach to prayer makes me uncomfortable.

Here’s a second question, one that makes our Hurricane Prayers a little tricky.  Imagine, whether you’re on Facebook or in worship on Sunday morning, you’ve asked people to “pray for those in the path of the storm”.  OK, so what are we doing when we “pray for those in the path of the storm”?  It sounds good and the perfectly appropriate thing to say at a moment like this.  But what have we actually said or done?  Take a deep breath and step back for a moment.  At best, “praying for those in the path of the storm” is like a vague well-wish on a cheap greeting card, sent in someone’s general direction.  What are we praying for, from our perch of relative safety, while others suffer death and destruction?

Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere.  If you wanted to find wonderful people condemned to live in the combined hells of poverty and corruption, it would be Haiti.  The 2006 Earthquake nearly destroyed the country.  They are completely dependent on international aid organizations, foreign governments, and the United Nations to maintain a government.  The last thing the Haitians need is a hurricane of any strength.  One might propose praying to God to turn the Hurricane away from Haiti.  I saw few prayers like that.  Here’s what I also know.  If we don’t see it on the news most people won’t care.  We care about what we see.  We also know that storms have a mind of their own.  Storms like people have free will, or so it seems.

So my question is this:  Are we praying for God to act against nature, for our self-preservation, the preservation of property, or perhaps ever time travel itself?  Are we praying to be returned to a place and time so that we might live as if the hurricane never existed?  Wouldn’t that be nice?

Privileged people like privileged prayers.  And from the moment we call forth the deity’s name, we are afloat on a sea of time no longer of our own control.  Beyond the glass which divides the sanctuary walls; our words (our “maybe not”) stand between Abraham’s “Why, God?” and Noah’s “Yes, God!” Thousands of years collapse into this single meditative moment.  We are human beings trying to understand the mysterious ways of the God we believe in and natural world created by this God.   Our prayers carry us back in time.

As each of those who preceded us and entered into a covenantal journey with the deity will attest; the status quo, today was preferred to the unknown future.   Self preservation, the now, and keeping things the same was seen as infinitely better than anything on the horizon.  It is within these emotions, between reticence and fear that our prayers begin to form.

Our prayers, even when confronted with God’s evolving future, often begin with the past firmly in mind.  Sure, using the vagaries of the present we may sound like we’ve prayed for 20 million people.  But is this what we’re really saying:

“God, do not change me or the world I know.  I want my needs, habits, and ideas to remain just where they were, before this Hurricane or whatever happens to be going on at this moment.”

What happens when God pulls us out of the present and takes us into the future?  What might that prayer sound like (especially as it relates to a Hurricane)?

Dear Lord,

Does it take a storm to make us vitally aware of your presence?

Does it take a storm to force us to say thank you to people who risk their lives?

Does it take the futility of humankind naming a storm for us to realize how powerful the forces of this planet truly are?

Does it take death and destruction for us to appreciate human life over property, technology, and material things?

Does it take evacuations for us to meet our neighbors and make new friends?

Does it take the wind and rain for us to realize you move in the stillness and silence after the clouds pass?

Forgive our ambivalence toward the irrelevance of tomorrow as we look only at the strangeness of our own version of today.

Help us to see the tenuous hope to which others grasp, bewildered by a despair we have never known, help us encounter those remote sounds and smells so they do not produce anxiety and fear in our hearts. 

Gracious God, You do not call us to accept death as a way of life for any of your children. 

We cannot do what we do alone.

Words alone are useless unless they are overwhelmed with love.  Forgive me when all I do is pray.  

I place these words on the shattered dreams of my recalcitrance, may they be embodied with love, placed with the risen Christ, who calls us to act, Jesus of Nazareth.



Perhaps, when I pray about Hurricane Matthew, I will pray something like that.


None-The Ninth Hour Richard’s Breviary



Gracious God,
Rework and realign the remains of this day.
In the hours of daylight which linger,
May we knit word-pictures,
Stories to tell,
Of Grace and abundance,
Of Love and Mercy,
In the places where hope has come unraveled.
Through your Spirit,
may we cross the divides which separate us from our neighbors;
may we answer the summons to be sent;
Across muddy roads, puddles, bridges, or busy streets,
For in these few feet, a broken world awaits,
For daily bread and forgiveness.
Help us, O God, to tell that story.
Thank you,


–Richard Bryant

*the Ninth Hour, is a fixed time of prayer of the Divine Office of almost all the traditional Christian liturgies. It usually consists of psalms and is said around 3 p.m. Its name comes from Latin and refers to the ninth hour of the day after dawn.

Night-Friday Richard’s Breviary


Gracious God,

In the silence,
Darkness surrounds us.
Though we cannot see,
We do not fear.
You are here.
Our words and songs are carried beyond this place.
Thank you for our day and all we have encountered.
The good gifts of time and place, people and love are fresh in our minds.
We lift up to you those whose journeys are encumbered by sickness and grief.
May we help lighten their burdens tomorrow as we seek your peace tonight.
Words come slow and still in the dark.  In the spaces between words, we listen.
Hear us, O Lord, as we pray.
Thank you,


–Richard Bryant

Dusk-Richard’s Breviary


Gracious God,
I sit and wait,
As darkness prepares to descend,
Your light is greater than the approaching night.
May we not forget,
As we go forward toward the shadows,
We do not travel alone,
Should we walk, shuffle, or merely crawl;
We go with you.
You await our arrival with sustenance and warmth.
Remove from us now:
The fear,
The spectacle,
And barriers of today.
May the shimmering rays of dusk,
Settle our souls and prepare our hearts for night.
Thank you.


–Richard Bryant

Mid Day Prayer for Friday


Gracious God,

I am drawn to your word in ways I do not fully understand.
Despite these addled days, we come before each other,
You and I.
At times of worship, work, love, and life,
we meet not to see or be seen but to speak,
These sounds,
when gathered across the sacred pages,
Make words…
Words that comfort, challenge, and even annoy me,
Because I cannot ignore the self-evident reality,
Though I sing without melody,
And pray in hushed tones,
I am speaking to you,
I cannot hide,
I am heard and understood,
Convinced of things I do not know,
I end this prayer, O God,
With this acknowledgement:
I am a beginner,
Called to live,
And to forever try.
Thank you, O God.
For drawing me nigh.


–Richard Bryant

Mid Day Office


Gracious God,
I seem wrong inside,
off kilter and slightly askew,
Because I fear seeing my mess,
I step back from what I feel,
I turn my eyes from what I see,
And wait for my soul’s nausea to pass,
While I hum, “I shall not be moved”,
You place me in the path,
To be, to live, to take,
An unavoidable step forward,
Where I wander freely,
Where I no longer care,
About the burden,
Of being wrong,
On this path,
For these reasons,
Narrow becomes wide,
And my ordered mess,
Becomes alive,
Despite the fear,
And my feet,
Which I’ve only shuffled,
Down the street.

Thank you,


What Prayer Is Not


Prayer is Not…

1. Self-help speak.

2. A way to fix things.  God’s Grace is the “fixer”. Prayer may reassure us of Grace but it isn’t Grace.  Prayer doesn’t fix things, Grace does.

3. An invitation we extend for God to meet us at our lowest emotional convenience.

4. Therapy with an unseen counselor.

5. Always about words.  Silence works wonders in Prayer.

6. Confined to worship.

7. Like a movie, with a start, stop, and pause button.  It really never stops because we simply join in to what God’s already doing.

8. A half full or half empty thing, it is a glass which can always be refilled.

9. What you probably think it is.

10. Paper, Words, or Thoughts alone. Presence is also Prayer.

–Richard Bryant

It’s Been A Smelly Week On Silver Lake


It’s been a cooler week on Silver Lake with tourists returning and autumn peeking around the corner. Despite this being the last full week of summer, down at the Village Gas Hut, home of the Over Laid Back Eggs, new air conditioning units were just put in.  I don’t know quite what this means.  Like some sort of HVAC ground hog, Sean knows six more weeks of hot weather is coming down the pike.  Six more weeks of air conditioning, while tough on the electric bills, means we’re going to be alive.  A dear sister in Christ posted a note on a church Facebook page early Friday morning.  Out of the goodness of her heart, she wanted both to warn and tell us of an impending 6.6 level earthquake of the coast of South Carolina on September 25th.  North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia are scheduled for divine demolition.  God, so this woman thinks, is angry about something in these three states.   I too wish our college football programs were stronger but heavenly temper tantrums to wipe out the human race?  Sean is too shrewd a businessman to invest in new air conditioning if we’re about to fall into the sea.   I’m with Sean.

The cats came and went through Chairman Meow’s House of Feline Fixing and Finery.  Whether the cats share an email list, Facebook account, or someone forced them to come; I haven’t heard.  A couple of times a year, Chairman Meow’s House of Feline Finery stops selling collars, costumes, and that fancy litter imported from Buxton.  For forty-eight hours Meow’s becomes an impromptu veterinary surgery.  Fixing Felines is like learning how to make Over Laid Back Eggs; it is an art form.  You need to know what you’re doing.  That’s why people with college degrees, who wear shoes on a regular basis, and carry fancy titles after their names are recruited for this most delicate of tasks.  Cats, particularly those with legs, hair, eyes, ears, and souls do not like to be fixed.  If interviewed, most cats will tell you, “We are not broken”.   Brokenness, like beauty, is in the eye of the one doing the holding.

Time seems to pick up as the week go on.  Monday moves like Molasses Creek.  Tuesdays are, well, Tuesdays.  Who does anything much on Tuesdays?  I spent the better part of the evening talking about lighting at church.  Despite what you may believe, churches aren’t supposed to be dark.  We like them to be well lit with energy efficient bulbs.  Finding the right light, under which to sing or preach by may make all the difference in a worship service.  Why do you think the Dark Ages were so dark?  Intellectual darkness comes from physical darkness.

On Friday, I came to work as I always do.  I walked through the door marked “office” and then entered a second door also marked “office”.  The redundancy is for my benefit.  I’ve been known to get lost in churches.  The journey from the door one to door two takes me from the world of golf carts, traffic, and noise into the realm of religious reflection.  It didn’t quite work that way this morning.  The hallway, the entire back of the church, smelled like poop, waste, excrement, dung, feces, fertilizer, droppings, discharge, evacuation, stool, and generalized external defilement.  Old churches smell but not like this.  Something was way off.

The bathroom, located next to my office, had been defiled.  It, and I use the term loosely, was everywhere (and I do mean everywhere).  The first thing I did was make a phone call:

“Hey, it’s me”.  My wife is on the other end.  She’s my one phone call when I encounter poop covered rooms.

“The bathroom is covered with poop.”  This means I don’t want to clean it up.  My statement is really a question.  Will you come do it for me?

“What do you want me to do about it?”  This means the girls are coming home for lunch and I’m on my own.

“I’ll figure it out myself.”  This means my next steps are to find gloves, cleaning supplies, and to talk to Jesus.  I will need to come terms with this reality:  I will vomit sometime in the next few minutes.

What I told Jesus:

Dear Lord,

You have got to be kidding me.

This is crazy.  I didn’t sign up for this.

Who makes this kind of mess?  So, what are you going to teach me about Grace?

I hope whoever did this sees a gastroenterologist because they need it.

Amen, I’m going to be sick.  Be right back.



Might That I


Might that I,
Sometime between,
The fading night,
And twilight’s shattered seams,
Seek a moment,
To say,
If I may,
These words;
Be they kind enough,
A worthy suffice,
One scattered few,
Indelicately placed,
Around the air,
Above the windows,
Beneath the pews,
Where they hover,
Round Holy spots,
A place to be,
Heard in silence,
By You and we,
I think I will.
Find a way,
To cobble a phrase,
And try to pray.

–Richard Bryant