Blessing Prayers

Jun 5, 2020

Blessing Prayers are one of my favorite ways to pray. In a blessing prayer we address directly the person we are praying for. A very old example of a blessing prayer is in the Book of Numbers 6:24-26:

May the Lord bless you and keep you;
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
May the Lord
lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

Blessing prayers have a different feel to me than intercessory prayers, those prayers in which we ask God to do something for others. We make intercession for others for a multitude of reasons: for physical healing from illness, safe travel, healthy pregnancies, a new job, or happy and stable marriages. Intercessory prayers ask God to intervene and help. “Please, God, free Maria from her addiction.” “Almighty One, protect our children at college.” Compassionate Healer, release John from the grips of this virus.” “Loving Jesus, fill my child with joy.”

I like the blessing prayer form because it is less specific and more expansive than intercession. Finding the “right” words for my extemporaneous intercessions is difficult for me. Using a blessing prayer format gives me a framework for corralling my words. It stimulates my poetic imagination about my hopes for my friends and the world. Here are a few of ways I pray blessing prayers:

May the God of Love surround you.
May the God of Joy delight you.
May the God of Mystery surprise you.
May the God of Hope sustain you.
May the God of Wisdom direct you
May the God of Freedom release you…

OR

God to enfold you.
God to enliven you.
God to comfort you.
God to accompany you.
God to refresh you.
God to unbind you….

OR sometimes maybe we need to call forth blessings on ourselves as a reminder of who we are and whose we are.

Creator of All, unite us.
Stream of Justice, trouble us.
Path of Righteousness, turn us.
Singer of Love, teach us.
Binder of Wounds, heal us.
Freer of Captives, release us.
Light of Light, awaken us.
Bread of Life, feed us….

Maybe the difference between blessing and intercession is just semantics, but blessing prayers seem like prayers of affirmation rather than just prayers of asking. They focus on the person but also on the infinite nature of God. When I offer a blessing prayer, I imagine I am unfurling an enormous canopy of God’s goodness and power onto someone. I feel like I am anointing a person with holy words and acting as an agent of God’s love. I want the people I pray for to look up and feel covered with the vast, bright gossamer of God.

I love combining blessing prayers with praying in color, ie. doodling prayer. I often use them for cards of condolence, birthday and anniversary wishes, and healing.

A simple way to draw a blessing prayer is to use the “two-stroke” prayer format. You can see the complete instructions in my September 12, 2016 post called Two-Stroke Doodled Prayers. Here’s a quick synopsis.

  • Draw a shape in the center of the page.
  • Write the person’s name in the middle of the shape.
  • Draw lines or arms from the shape, as many as you need for the blessings you want to include.
  • Write your blessings along the arms.
  • Choose two shapes to use–lines and circles or arcs and V’s or…see the instructions and start to draw and add color.
  • Pray the blessings as you doodle and color.
  • You can always sneak in more arms for additional blessings that come to you.
  • The example below uses arcs and lines.

Many traditional Irish prayers follow a blessing format. John Michael Talbot’s God of Life 1980’s album has several songs that fit this pattern. His songs God and Betwixt Me are two especially beautiful examples of blessing prayers. I have kept these songs in my repertoire of memorized prayers and sing them whenever I feel the need for blessing.