The prayers are a time when the congregation brings its burdens before the Lord, and often before each other. Prayers are shared for the sick and dying, the grieving, the hopeless and the helpless. These are the prayers most often requested in my experience. Prayers about an upcoming surgery, recovery from illness, the death of a loved one.
But prayers are also made in thanksgiving. People often request prayers as they celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and other occasions. They give thanks when healing has occurred, when jobs are found, when life is good.
Prayers are made for leaders in the world and the church. Prayers are offered that relate to the Scripture readings for the day.
The prayers I hear the least, and the prayers I pray the least, are when life is neither good nor bad, when life is humming along at the status quo filled with stress and exhaustion, but lacking in crisis situations. People often don't request prayers to feel more rested, to have more energy, to have more satisfaction with their work, or to have a crisis situation come up so that they will appreciate the routine and status quo more.
Yet, if you think about the Lord's Prayer, what is it other than a prayer for an ordinary day. Give us this day our daily bread. Give us what we need to survive another day of the status quo.
One of the biggest lies the world tells us is that we are missing out, that we deserve more and better, that we won't be satisfied until we upgrade everything.
But this is a never ending striving after the wind. It depletes our satisfaction far more than enhances it. Such tireless striving robs us of the ability to enjoy what we have, to notice and appreciate, and pray for the mundane, for daily bread.
I'd love to see more mundane requests. Because, let's face it, what we consider mundane are some of the greatest blessings we have. Thank you God for my ordinary, mundane car. Thank you God for the technology to communicate with my friends around the globe. Thank you God for my health (even when I'm not taking the best care of my body).
Thank you God for roads and grocery stores and books and air conditioning and fingernail clippers and indoor plumbing and sunsets and music and stories and flowers and coffee.
You see, our prayers of thanks for and dissatisfaction with the mundane reveal the total and entire point of prayer: all things are dependent upon God.
Comedian Kathleen Madigan once joked about the USA's deficit and debt, saying that she'd be more likely to act if the deficit wasn't some astronomical number beyond her comprehension, but was something ordinary...like mashed potatoes. Ordinary things are taken for granted until they are taken away. Then, we don't know how to handle it.
So let us thank God today for mashed potatoes. Let us thank God for the ordinary. Because let's face it, ordinary just means things we have gotten used to, and every ordinary thing is an absolute marvel.