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A New Way to Pray: ‘Circular Prayers’

An old family tradition inspires another path to prayer while connecting with others.

Writing a prayer

When I was growing up—lo, those many years ago—my parents exchanged “circular letters” with various family members and friends.

Before the advent of emails and texts, which allow us to send a message to many people at once, these letters were a way to circulate updates within a group. In our family, it worked something like this. My mom, Millie, would write a newsy letter and send it off to her sister, Dorothy. Dorothy would read it, pen her own newsy letter and then send it and Millie’s letter to Shirley, the youngest sister. 

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Shirley would dash off a page or two of her own and send hers and Dorothy’s back to my mom, Millie. Millie would read her sisters’ missives, write a new one of her own, and send hers and Shirley’s to Dorothy. And round and round it went. 

I remembered this recently and thought the idea could be a way to pray I’ve not yet tried. It could work through the mail but also via email or text. Person A could jot a short prayer, expressing whatever petition is on his or her heart and send it to Person B. B could then add a new prayer and forward it to Person C. And so on, until it comes back to Person A. 

Praying this way could introduce a new regularity and intimacy into a family’s or small group’s prayer life. One group of friends may decide to share a “thank you, God” each day to lift one another’s spirits. Family members might link together to pray for each other on a daily or weekly basis. A parent’s group could share “circular prayers” for their children. And so on. 

As often happens in prayer meetings, “circular prayers” could devolve into routine sharing of problems or concerns rather than actual prayers. For that reason, I recommend beginning with the proviso that each contribution should be a prayer to God, not a prayer request to each other. In that way, participants are linked, but also draw closer to God who hears and answers all prayers. What could be better?

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