99 Prayers Your Church Needs (But Doesn't Know It Yet)
By Bethany Fellows
Edited by Cara Gilger
Featured in Washington Post's Acts of Faith and Christian Century Magazine
When the unexpected comes and you can’t find the words to pray,
99 Prayers Your Church Needs (But Doesn’t Know It Yet) will provide the starting point for the prayer your congregation or pastor needs. From prayers for a family who has lost a loved one to addiction, to a prayer for the new pastor in a new congregation, and so many more, these ready-to-read prayers will help you respond to a multitude of unexpected prayer requests—whether celebratory or grieving, or somewhere in between—in the course of your congregation's life.
- when your pastor has experienced the death of a child
- those who have lost a loved one to an overdose
- when your pastor is facing criminal charges
- a member of your congregation formally changing their name
- when your pastor is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness
- when your pastor has been arrested in a non-violent protest
- your pastor’s deployment as a military chaplain
- a member of your congregation celebrating a milestone in sobriety
Editor: Cara Gilger
Contributors: Robyn Bles, Diane Faires, Shauna Flemming, Danny Gulden, Jamie Haskins, Megan Houston, Shane Isner, Stephanie Kendell, Billy Kilgore, Elizabeth King, Allison Lanza, Peter Mitchell, Ryan Motter, Suzanne Kerr Motter, Sunny Ridings, Kim Gage Ryan, Melissa St. Clair, Shanna Steitz, Arthur Stewart, Whitney Waller-Cole, Dawn Weaks, Kory Wilcoxson, Chris Wilson, Mark Winters, Selena Wright
From Julie Zauzmer, Washington Post, Acts of Faith:
"This book has thought of everything you perhaps haven’t. There’s a prayer in here to say if your pastor is arrested. There are different prayers to say if your church building is burglarized, or vandalized, or burned. There’s a blessing for a church member coming out in a new gender identity. There’s a prayer if a person suffers a medical emergency during a worship service.
Written by a group of pastors, most of them in the mainline Protestant denomination Disciples of Christ, this is a great book for getting into the nitty-gritty of how to pray, very specifically, about the real challenges a community might bring to God on any given day.
My own congregation held a leadership meeting this past weekend, and I brought this book. Most of what we had to discuss at this meeting was joyous: We talked about making our services more engaging for our toddler-age members, about starting new programs, about inviting newcomers to our annual extra-festive service this Friday night. We weren’t planning, at this meeting, for the bad moments. But we all know that in any congregation, including in our own, a close-knit community faces unexpected crises over the years. So the lay leaders of my congregation passed the book around the room, commenting on one of these prayers after another. Prayers for overdoses and mental health crises, for a child facing a pet’s death, for the music leader not showing up on a Sunday, for the sprinkler system going off."
From David Crumm, ReadtheSpirit.org
“Detailed, specific prayer is the focus of a new book by Gilger and a nationwide network of 40 talented young clergy, titled 99 Prayers Your Church Needs—But Doesn’t Know It Yet. The book is a cornucopia of words that real people in real communities have lifted up in the face of all manner of celebrations and catastrophes.”
From Rev. Rachel Johnson, Young Clergy Women International, Fidelia Magazine
"'They don’t teach that in seminary.' A minister’s whole career could be summed up with that sentence. Seminary fills a person with a lot of knowledge. But somewhere between eschatology and soteriology, the Nicene Creed and the Barmen Declaration, aspiring ministers aren’t taught what to do when a market crash wipes out a church’s savings or a tragedy brings reporters camped out on the sidewalk. Enter 99 Prayers Your Church Needs [But Doesn’t Know it Yet].
This thin but weighty book of prayers composed by Bethany Fellows covers all manner of unexpected and yet thoroughly plausible situations that a minister and congregation may face in their shared lives together – everything from a pastor waking up too sick to come in on Sunday, to a congregation deciding whether to become welcoming and affirming, to a family welcoming a foster child. As communities committed to walking alongside each other through every season of life, we want to mark significant occasions. But too often we are like the Apostle Paul, not knowing how to pray as we ought.
We all know the moments that call for prayer: baby dedications and baptisms, budget meetings and, of course, before any meal with a pastor in attendance. But what do you say when a community member is being deported? How do you come up with words when your pastor is being deployed as a chaplain? What words can appropriately convey gratitude for a major donor gift without sounding uncouth?
It is easy to assume that as long as a prayer is expressed from the heart, our words can never be wrong. But too many of us have suffered through cringe-worthy prayers to know this is not always true. We want to honor the spirit in which all prayers are offered, but if we are intentional in reflecting theologically on what to say at the graveside of a beloved congregation member, shouldn’t we bring the same care to acknowledging the loss that comes when a church staff member is fired? 99 Prayers is an invaluable tool for ministers and congregations caught in situations they never expected and never prepared for.
More than simply a roadmap for navigating the complexities of life, the authors of these prayers are offering up a new way of being in community. This book envisions a church that our world so desperately needs right now: communities equipped to hold all that is fragile and beautiful and broken and wonderful in life – in short, all that is messy about being a human in the world. At a time when the church is increasingly viewed as an irrelevant entity, detached from the lives of too many people, 99 Prayers has the audacity to say that God’s people have a word to share when social services unexpectedly becomes involved with a family in the congregation or the pastor goes through a divorce.
Rather than church being a place where we have to present ourselves in our “Sunday best” – cleaned up, fully put together, without flaw or heartache – the contributors of this book envision communities of God’s people who love each other exactly as we are (and just as God loves us). Pastors may go on maternity leave. Congregations can be touched by suicide. Staff may break the trust of their community ethically or criminally. In too many churches, when this happens it gets swept under the rug. We don’t talk about the uncomfortable or the sordid. Feelings of shame and guilt don’t go well with the perfect picture of worshipers serenely praying on the church homepage. Any wonder why one of the top reasons people give for leaving church is the institution’s hypocrisy
99 Prayers Your Church Needs [But Doesn’t Know it Yet] casts a new vision for what the church can be. It recognizes that while the church may be the body of Christ on earth, it is still a human institution made up of flawed beings. People have tremendous capacity for love and generosity and kindness. We also succumb to fear, greed, and the frailty of our world. What if rather than ignoring this, church could become the place where the complexities of life are named, where the sacred is honored, and the broken is blessed?
We may not know it yet, but that is exactly the church our world needs."