“The important thing about prayer is to keep at it.” Frederick Buechner in Wishful Thinking (1973).
Ed Christman, like any good pastor, learned to pray at the drop of a hat. He could write prayers quickly, scribbling on the back of a faculty meeting agendas. (Remember “God goes to faculty meetings?”) For longer and more formal prayers, such as those for memorial services and campus events, he would craft his prayers through several versions over many days. In either case, he aimed to reflect the moment at hand and also to inspire those present to glimpse something bigger.
As a chaplain, Ed delivered prayers for a wide range of events and situations. He served as the university’s worship leader at Convocation, Founders Day, Baccalaureate, and Graduation. He wrote and delivered prayers of invocation and benediction at these events.
Year-around, he prayed at dinners and celebrations, BSU and other student gatherings, faculty meetings, weddings and funerals. He prayed with individuals in the quiet of his corner office, and he prayed in the ceremonies at Wait Chapel. Ed prayed in times of joy, and he prayed in times of despair. The right prayer always appeared at the right time.
These themes are found in Ed’s prayers: be present in your own life; look around at the world; have the courage to sail out of the safe port by knowing you are always loved.
Many of those good prayers have been collected and appear below at the link. These cover the years 1970-2003. Here is an example, the opening prayer from a faculty meeting in the early 1970s:
“Grant us, O Lord, an economy of words and an abundance of wisdom. Amen.”
This prayer is from the 2001 new student convocation:
“Knit us together as we pray as a community of teachers and learners given the bountiful opportunity to grow up in every way; nourish these entering students and families joining us on a sacred journey for You have given us Wake Forest, a source of life and hope…”
And this one is from the service held to mark engagement of the war on Iraq, March 2003:
“Tonight our nation truly is at war, and no matter how just the cause may be, this war, like all others, is ultimately filled with human tragedy. In the face of such a tragedy, we gather together this evening to find comfort and gain understanding in the only ways we know — by turning to our God and reaching out to embrace each other.”
We welcome your comments on specific prayers or on the nature of prayer in the university setting. Are there any prayers that you especially remember? If so, add your thoughts in the comments box below.
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