Welcome to Bell Tower Prayer, a blog I’ve named in honor of the most distinctive architectural feature of the building in which I live, a former Methodist church transformed into a family home. The historic bell, not all that long ago, could not be rung because of rot in the beams supporting the tower. Those beams have been reinforced, and now I ring that bell every time we have a visitor, on holidays and many Sunday mornings.
The primary purpose of ringing church bells in modern times is to signify the time for worshippers to gather for a church service. Similarly, Bell Tower Prayer will call you, not to a worship service, but to prayer. Consider the nonsecular, non-sectarian prayers offered through Bell Tower Prayer to be guidance, a daily invitation to connect to the Divine. Welcome.
When 2021 dawned, I resolved to “pray daily.” The world was deep in the throes of COVID-19, and bad news seemed to surface in every news broadcast, front page and phone call. I needed a reminder that I wasn’t in charge. Praying daily was at the top of my list of ways to cope.
Prayer isn’t everyone’s jam, but it’s mine. Even if you’re not particularly religious, prayer helps. You won’t always get the answers you want or expect, but the very act of assigning control of chaos to Someone (or Something) else improves your perspective. Scientific studies have proven the power of prayer.
Some folks can be extemporaneous—no conversation with God needs to be perfectly scripted after all—but I’m not good at free-form prayer. When left to my own devices, my list of petitions can be pretty bland and boring, maybe not for God but certainly for me. I’m a rule follower, and I like a few choice words, a starting point. Google came in handy. Search “prayer for [fill in the blank],” and you’ll find something. During the first half of 2021, I googled prayers for morning, afternoon, evening, Monday (Mondays can be hard), healing, grieving and gratitude. I even chanted a Hindu prayer for my dad when he had to attend the funeral of his brother, and I prayed a nice prayer for the full moon.
In my increasingly dedicated search for prayers, I checked out social media, bookstores, my own library and those devotional books one finds at church. I didn’t discriminate. My home library includes books by Pope Francis and Max Lucado, but I also read the work of Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh and my daily horoscope. By gum, I ran across the Religions of Star Trek, a book that has somehow been saved from the library book sale more than once. I even looked to YouTube for guidance. My most popular search there was “2 minute prayer” (I resolved to pray every day, not all day).
We humans have been praying since the Neanderthal age when, archaeological evidence shows, cavemen mastered fire, wore furs, used tools, lived in groups and deliberately buried their dead, according to Philip and Carol Zaleski’s Prayer: A History, so we’ve had lots of practice, practitioners and experts through the millennia. Some of my favorite historical prayers include the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis (“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace”), the Serenity Prayer made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous (“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change”), the Common Table Prayer (“Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest”) and the Lord’s Prayer (“Our Father who art in heaven”).
More recently, some of my favorite prayers this year have come from Anne Neilson, an artist and author of Angels: Devotions and Art to Encourage, Refresh, and Inspire, a book I found at a gift shop in Galveston I visited in February. I was drawn to the cover, an image of angel sculpted by Neilson in oil paint. Even in a two-dimensional book, her paintings feel fully developed.
Throughout Angels, Neilson invites readers to reflect on one of her paintings and individual words such as create and foundation. She offers a definition of the word, a Bible verse and a prayer with each of forty devotions. “I decided to do a devotional on words because words are so powerful,” she writes in the introduction. “Our thoughts are brought to life through language—the ways we think and act—each word deeply impacting how we live and breathe and view the world.”
I agree with Neilson: words matter. The world is filled with prayers of beauty, passion and substance that use the right words, but when I relied on the popular apps and websites that appear high on Google’s search results (and, to be honest, many devotionals), so many prayers I found were too short, too repetitive, too formal or, frankly, too depressing.
Writing is one of the gifts God endowed me, and I can improve on some of the prayers blowing in the winds of the internet. I want to offer you a daily call to prayer that fills your heart with inspiration, gratitude and radiance.
Bell Tower Prayer will deliver a prayer to your In Box every day. Each prayer is designed specifically for the day, for the season and for you. If your intention is to prayer every day, but sometimes the day just gets away from you, Bell Tower Prayer will remind you to reconnect to the Divine.
The style of prayer is universal. Bell Tower Prayers are for all believers, not only for Christians. All are welcome here. We use a variety of names for God, and you should always feel free to substitute the name you are most comfortable using.
My aim is to uplift and inspire you, to connect you to the Creator and bless your day.
If you’d like a daily prayer delivered to your In Box, an annual subscription is $7.30. That’s only 2 cents a day. Sign up here by clicking on “Pay with PayPal.”
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The blog posts you find here are free. I’ll be posting twice a week or so and writing about prayer and faith. Even if you’re not interested in a daily prayer, I invite you to subscribe to this blog and participate in the conversation.