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This week I’m on vacation, hopefully being mindful in the way articulated by the poem I shared here last time. And next week is the official launch of my new book, Nourishing Narratives: The Power of Story to Shape Our Faith, and I’m so grateful to the Reformed Journal for its generous support and for running an excerpt. Thanks to all of you, faithful readers, who have encouraged my writing here all these years. I’m grateful for you, too.

To help me really vacation, my dear friend and colleague, Jane Zwart, provided me with the text of the most recent prayer she shared with her church. More gratitude–both for Jane and for her words. May they bless you today.

Dear God,

Your thoughts are not our thoughts. It is not that we think of ourselves while you don’t think of us. It is not that you shrug as fires charge across provinces and charge the air with smoke, that you blink when bombs demolish homes and scatter limbs. It is not that you are indifferent to our indifference or that you yawn at our meanness and idols, at our grasping after whatever “ism” favors us and ours. For your heart is not hard, not a soil that our woes can’t penetrate. And even when we sow our lives with foolishness, you do not give us up to the evil one. You remind us who you are.

So we pray that when it is tempting to ask for the impossible–that we would know all your thoughts already, here and now–remind us who we are. Keep us from forgetting that our thoughts are not your thoughts. Remind us to pray for understanding and humility.  

Dear Jesus,

Your ways are not our ways. Our enthusiasm for the gospel is skin deep and fitful, and you are the gospel incarnate and eternal. Our devotion is choked by the cares of this age. In truth, we sometimes court despair, watering the thorns, forgetting that you wore a crown of them for us. So remind us.

Remind those who mourn not just that you have conquered death but also that you wept over Lazarus even as we weep, even as we pray for those who grieve. Remind us of your promise to be with us always as we pray for those whose lives are hard, harder than seems just, harder than is just. For people displaced by war or weather or famine or persecution, we pray. For people who have lived with loneliness or poverty or pain or oppression for so long that they are almost at home with it, we pray.

And remind those of us who suffer that you, O Christ, are the Man of Sorrows–that you were mocked, betrayed, and crucified–and also that you are the Son or Man, who forgave and loved and rose from the grave.

Dear Spirit,

Your breath is our breath, your fire our fire. Anyway, we want it to be.

We want to be good soil, and we want to be sowers. So soften our hearts, too. Give us courage to tear up the paths we’ve worn between our opinions and self-righteousness, between our desires and entitlement, between our talents and pride, lest the seeds of the gospel fail to penetrate our hearts. Give us resolve to clear the brambles from our faith, to do the tedious work of weeding. Make us rich in generosity so that the Word takes root. And wrap us in gratitude so that we do not compare our yield with our neighbors’–whether it be a hundredfold, or sixtyfold, or thirty.

And where you trust the seeds of the good news to us, Holy Spirit, let us sow them where you say and tend them as you instruct. We pray for your inspiration and wisdom as we labor in the plots you have given us to garden, sustained at your table by the gift of finest wheat. Amen.

Jennifer L. Holberg

I am professor and chair of the Calvin University English department, where I have taught a range of courses in literature and composition since 1998. An Army brat, I have come to love my adopted hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Along with my wonderful colleague, Jane Zwart, I am the co-director of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, which is the home of the Festival of Faith and Writing as well as a number of other exciting endeavors. Given my interest in teaching, I’m also the founding co-editor of the Duke University Press journal Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture. My book, Nourishing Narratives: The Power of Story to Shape Our Faith, was published in July 2023 by Intervarsity Press.


  • Daniel Meeter says:

    A good prayer to accompany this coming Sunday’s elections. Thank you

  • RZ says:

    Not sure if it is appropriate to praise or criticize a prayer, but this really feels consistent with the heart of the scriptures- self-sacrificing and not presumptuous, more pledge than petition, humble and acquiescent rather than declarative and directive. As such, it is deeply reverent. I am keeping this one on file. Thank you, Jane.

  • Joyce and Wes Kiel says:

    We are so blessed!

  • Henry Baron says:

    Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing Jane’s prayer – a prayer reaching from our hearts to God’s.
    And blessings on your book launch; I’m looking forward to enjoying it!

  • Daniel Bos says:

    What Henry Baron said!

  • Harvey Kiekover says:

    I’m blessed in reading, no, in praying the threefold prayer of Jane. Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing it with us.

  • jack roeda says:

    Thank you so much. .

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