Litany for Goodness and Mercy

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:6)


God of goodness and mercy: we admit that we have gotten off-track.
We know we need to do justly,
Love mercy,
Walk humbly. (1)

We are enticed by retribution
And take vengeance for ourselves (2).
We are enamored by damnation
And forget about goodness.
We are in love with judgement
And disregard mercy.

We need a change of heart.
Christ, have mercy on us.
We need to look into your eyes and have our inner world transformed,
Before we begin work on the world around us (3).

Transform and renew us now (4)
Into the image of Christ,
Into a peace-making people,
Into a just and merciful people.

May we scatter seeds of goodness and mercy wherever we go,
And live in the light of your presence always. (5)



  1. Micah 6:8, which Phyllis Tickle says is the motto of the Great Emergence.

  2. Romans 12:19

  3. Matthew 7:3

  4. Romans 12:2

  5. Psalm 23.6

Little Litanies: Psalm 23

I’m teaching my five-year-old this version of Psalm 23 that I wrote/mashed up. It’s a mix of influences from the NIV and the MSG, and some simplifications of my own invention. I wanted to create a version that a very young child can connect with, but that retains some of the beauty and imagery of the original and can serve as a touchstone prayer for comfort and encouragement and a reminder of the loving presence of God. I also wanted it to be accessible to a kid who is not being raised in an agrarian society, and for whom metaphors are not yet obvious (1).

God, you’re my shepherd.
I am your sheep.(2)
You give me everything I need.

You let me rest in green meadows
And drink from peaceful waters.
You refresh my soul.
You guide me so that I can honor you.

Even if I’m in a dark, scary place,
I’m not afraid because you are with me.
You comfort and encourage me.

You prepare a party for me,
And ask me to invite my enemies. (3)
You put oil on my head. (4)
My blessings are overflowing.

My whole life is full of your beauty and love,
And my home is with you. (5)



  1. For instance, just recently I had drawn a picture of a cucumber wearing a t-shirt that said “Eat me” and put it in her lunchbox. Her response: “Why did you give me a picture of a cucumber with no pants!?!...<a pause for consideration>...OOOooh, because you put cucumbers in my lunch and you wanted me to eat them!”

  2. This line is not in the original Psalm. I added it, again because the metaphor is not obvious to a digital-age five-year-old.

  3. Yep, I’m taking a liberty here. I’m mixing in the sermon on the mount (Matt 5:44). I used to think this line was about gloating. Now I think it’s about inviting.

  4. My kid is familiar with this concept, because I anoint her head with essential oils regularly.

  5. These two lines are much like Eugene Peterson’s in the MSG.


Litany for Worship

Ruler of heaven and earth:
We exalt you!
We come into your presence with singing and thanksgiving,
Because you are Good! (1)
You have reached out to us with open arms.
Your love endures forever! (2)

Heaven and earth are yours, created by you.
We belong to you!
Your beauty and power astound us.
We want to see your glory! (3)
For you are above all things and before all things,
In you all things hold together! (4)

Everything in the world that distracts and tempts us
Is nothing compared to you!
Everything that would keep us from your love,
You have overcome! (5)
Everything we need
You have provided!

For you are gracious and compassionate
Slow to anger and rich in love. (6)
We want to be in your presence always, every minute, every day.
We worship you, and you only.


(1) Psalm 100: 4,5
(2) Psalm 106
(3) Psalm 63:2
(4) Colossians 1:17
(5) Romans 8:39
(6) Psalm 145:8


Litany for Listening

If we are going to keep praying for reconciliation among the races; if we are going to keep praying for reconciliation between hetero culture and the LGBTQ community; if we are going to keep praying for reconciliation among differing religious paradigms; if we are going to keep praying for reconciliation among nations; then I wonder if we should start by asking for help with listening.

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Cor 5:18-20)

God, who so graciously speaks to us and is present to us,
Help us to be present to you, and to your people.

We confess that we are distracted and noisy people.
We confess that we have avoided quieting ourselves before you.
We confess that we’ve been afraid of what you might say to us.
We confess that we are often so busy speaking that all we hear is our own opinions.

We turn now to you, knowing that you are love,
And that love is what you are always telling us,
Even when you are gently correcting us.
We need gentle correction now.

We confess that we have not listened to our neighbors.
We confess that we have not made time and space to hear their stories and concerns.
We confess that we have allowed our differences to put us off.
We confess that by not engaging, we have stifled love.

Show us how to listen attentively,
And to love our neighbors near and far.
Show us how to open our ears and hearts
To those of different cultures, races, backgrounds, belief systems.
Show us how to embody the mission of Christ:
To prepare a great banquet and invite everyone to feast.

May we make space in our lives to hear your voice and do your good work.
May we know your voice.
May we overcome our fears of shame, and our reluctance to experience awkward moments.
May we follow the promptings of your Spirit without hesitation.
May our hearts be big enough to hold the stories we hear.
May we live love loudly, and listen quietly.

Be near to us as we do the work of quieting our souls (1),
That we may listen and learn from those around us.


(1) Psalm 131:
O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
            Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
            Or in things too difficult for me.

 Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
            Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
            My soul is like a weaned child within me.

  O Israel, hope in the LORD
            From this time forth and forever.

Litany for Doubt

In contemporary church-y, Jesus-y culture, we have little language to express doubt; and little room in our paradigms for sitting in the tension of it. Mostly, you are either in, or you’re out. I find that lots of people have a sophisticated (or at least wordy) theology about doubt and they know all the right answers, and usually those are the folks who have never actually traveled it. It’s easy to say, from a place of faith: you should put a lid on your doubt.

I don’t want to do that.

My personal experience with doubt has been informative and valuable. I feel that Jesus’ response to my doubt has always been a gracious “Here, touch my hands and side” (1); and “I saw you under the fig tree” (2). For better or worse, I want to explore it, to remember what it felt like when I was there, and allow it to portray my faith in relief, with depth and shadow and dimension. I feel pretty sure that to doubt is to admit that mystery is an ingredient of faith, a color in its spectrum.

This litany uses more poetic imagery than most of what I post. But I have found that regular words aren’t enough to give vent to doubt. If the entree is hard questions, it needs a side of groaning, and a chaser of silence.

Honestly, if you are in a season of doubt, and you are able to pray this (or any) prayer at all, well, good for you. And if your “sometimes” is moving toward “always,” then Blessings, Sister. Blessings, Brother.

Litany for Doubt

God, sometimes we feel as if You are not there at all.
We cannot hear You through the static of our emotions,
   the cacophony of voices,
   the fullness and the void.
We cannot see You in the fabric of the visible and scientific.
We cannot feel You in the tension and the grit.

People say “God doesn’t exist” and sometimes we believe them.

We want to believe You.
We want You to be Good. Love. True.
Help our unbelief. (3)

We have been hurt. Shattered, perhaps.
We have been disappointed, and are inclined to minimize risk.
We can say with the Psalmist: “All day long I have been afflicted,
    And every morning brings new punishments.” (4)
Let Your grace pierce the armor we set about ourselves.

Have mercy on us in our doubt, and meet us in our weakness.
Where we are skeptical, be gracious to us.
Where our expectations are unmet, be generous to us.
Where we have unanswered questions, gently teach us.

We acknowledge that doubt is an opportunity to become deeply quiet,
   To wait.

On our own we can hardly open the door for You.
We will need You to stealthily creep in.
We will need Your patience, and all the loving-kindness You can muster
To make up for our lack.

If there is any language we can understand,
Surely it is Love.
If there is any small spark our eyes can see,
Surely it is Love.


  1. John 20:27
  2. John 1:48
  3. Mark 9:24
  4. Psalm 73:14


Litany for the Presence of God

*This litany contains more formal, directly scriptural language; which I think is nice interspersed with less formal contemporary language in the modern worship service. "Sunday Best" language, spoken aloud in community with sincere hearts can feel fresh, and shed new light on Biblical turns of phrase.


Oh, the majesty and magnificence of Your presence!
Oh, the beauty of Your sanctuary!

Give to the Lord honor and offerings
For great are You, Lord, and greatly to be praised.
Give to the Lord glory and honor -
The glory and honor due to Your name!

We enter Your gates with thanksgiving, and Your courts with praise.
To be in your presence, Lord, is joy.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
To be in your presence, Lord, is to be free.
You bless Your people with peace.
In Your presence is peace that surpasses our understanding.

We earnestly seek the presence of the Lord all day long.
Joy, freedom, and peace are the hallmarks of our lives.
Daily we carry the presence of the Lord with us,
And this mystery is Christ in us, the hope of glory.

Daily we acknowledge Christ, in all things;
For in Him all things hold together.
Daily we reach out for You, Lord, and find You, for You are not far from us.
In You we live and move and have our being. We are Your children.