Sometimes, it’s not until something is taken away from you, that you realise how important it is.
I hadn’t realised until lockdown, how much touch was an important aspect of our worship at St Clare’s. The hugs and handshakes as we arrive and at the peace; the feel of the bread in your hands and your mouth; the cool metal of the chalice in your hands.
But more than that. Our services usually include something interactive, either in the teaching or the prayers. Putting a prayer on a prayer tree; exchanging a rough stone for a shiny pebble; lighting a candle; simply holding an image in your hands as you pray. More than I realised, our sense of touch forms a part of our worship.
But then we went into lockdown, and all touch was banished. We weren’t even physically in the same location, worshipping from across the city and country via the miracle of Zoom. Like all churches everywhere, we had to learn fast, and adapt fast. Our services became more visual, but they were not tactile. And we missed that.
We tried asking people to bring something to the worship where they were, a stone, a piece of paper to write on, a candle to light. It worked for those who remembered to do it, but never quite felt like we were in it together.
Then one of our community came across this idea for intercessions, which really helped.
I don’t want to overreach here. I’m not suggesting that this very simple prayer idea makes up for all that we are managing without, or is in anyway the same as a heartfelt bear hug, but it is a way of bringing the tactile into worship (whether online or socially distanced) which everyone can take part in, with no preparation or need to bring anything other than yourself.
You just need your hands. Everyone is invited to take hold of one finger a time, as you begin by praying for yourself, then those closest to you, then gradually broaden the vision as you change fingers. Below are some words we used, but you can, of course, use different words.
It doesn’t sound much, but I was really surprised at just how powerful it was.
Take a hold of your little finger.
Think about yourself. What is going on with you today? Tell God your anxieties, your fears, your hopes and joys. Ask for the Spirit to fill you, strengthen and help you.
Take a hold of your ring finger.
Think about the people you love. Those who are the very closest for you. Bring them before God, entrusting them into God’s tender care.
Take a hold of your middle finger.
Think about your wider circle of friends and family. Are there any of them particularly on your mind right now. Bring them before God and ask for a blessing on them.
Take a hold of your forefinger.
Think about the people you may see or talk to, day by day in passing, but don’t know that well. Colleagues, neighbours maybe. Hold them before God. Is there someone that God is putting on your heart? To pray for, to chat to, to reach out to?
Take a hold of your thumb.
Think about people you don’t know. Maybe someone you’ve seen on the news, read about or heard about. Bring them to God, who knows their hopes and fears, and ask God to be with them.
God of love, we entrust all those we have prayed for today, into your strong, safe hands. Amen.
Click the link for a downloadable version of the Finger prayers.
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If you’re looking for an idea for visual prayers, then have a look at our Gazing Prayers 2020.