Growing up, I vividly remember my family forming prayer circles whenever we’d gather as a large group. One by one, “the siblings” (my aunts, uncle and mother) within the circle would take the time to offer up a prayer of gratitude, strength or forgiveness. My aunt, Arthurenia often started the prayer, with her verses gradually turning into a hymn of speaking in tongues, a gift that only she possessed. I remember looking around and watching my mother and Aunt Sara gently sway side to side, eyes closed and whispering words of praise. Palms facing the ceiling and her head tilted slightly upward, my mother embraced the Spirit.

My uncle began his prayer with “Father God” before continuing on. His commanding voice is what I imagined my grandfather sounded like when he and my grandmother prayed over our family many years before. My Aunt Jeanetta’s words reminded me of why she was named an Elder within her church community. Yet there I was, not understanding why there weren’t tears coming down from my eyes or how these words flowed so freely from their mouths. My ideas on prayer have come from years of watching the spiritual experiences of my family and having my own as I continue to learn about the nature of God and my relationship with the divine. The latter process, has come through unlearning previous notions of who God and Christ are.

In the wake of what seems to be a period of pain for many, this morning, I offer this prayer to you.


A Sunday Prayer

Dear God,
We are grateful to gather together and praise your holy name this day.
I’m grateful for the blessings you have placed in our lives and
I pray for your guidance as we walk through the wilderness.
In heated passion, I have cursed you, forsaken you and judged you.
But because of you, I know we are never alone.

Please forgive us for our weakness
And give us strength to know that you are our way and our truth.
Please help us understand your life
To help uplift others,
Please help us understand your death and resurrection
To know that the promised land is not among these mortal acres.
Please help us, in due time, to forgive those who have harmed us or our spirit
in a moment, in a lifetime, of unkindness
I pray that you may guide us to find peace within ourselves
And seek forgiveness when we have caused harm to others.

I pray for those who are not here with us today and ask that they are protected
And their hearts are filled with love and joy.
Let us remember you in all our dealings with others,
from the debtor to the debtee,
And remember thy name as we go through this week.


Janan Graham-Russell is a writer based in Evanston, Illinois. In 2016, she graduated from the Howard University School of Divinity with a Master of Arts in Religious Studies. Her writing focuses on culture, history, religion and theology through Black feminist and womanist lenses. Her work has been featured in The Atlantic as well as Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings (2015) and A Book of Mormons (2015). When she's not writing or doing research, she enjoys dancing to Beyonce, watching films, and spending time with her husband and infant son.

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