There is nothing too small, too ordinary, or too specific that we can’t offer to the Lord in prayer. In their stunning collection of prayers in Liturgies for Hope, Audrey Elledge and Elizabeth Moore beautifully touch on the anxieties, exhaustions, joys, and longings of our days, while drawing from the time-tested wisdom of Scripture. In today’s post, they share with us, “A Liturgy for Showing Kindness to Strangers,” a much needed reminder for us all as we seek to navigate our days in this unpredictable world with a tender heart and Christ-like generosity. It is a grace to welcome Audrey and Elizabeth to the farm’s table today…

Guest Post by Audrey Elledge and Elizabeth Moore

As residents of the ever-bustling New York City, there is no shortage of strangers to bump into at any given moment.

Ask any New Yorker, and we’ve all brushed arms or tangled elbows with people in subway cars, in tight grocery store aisles, or on a crowded avenue.

Even in this post-pandemic world where skin contact with strangers has become a relic of the past, it’s still impossible to step outside without crossing paths with dozens, if not hundreds of people you have never met.

Every person we encounter has an invisible history: a conglomeration of memories, desires, hopes, disappointments, devastations, likes, dislikes, and longings that we could never know.

“our perspective can fundamentally change if we believe that each stranger is a beloved, irreplaceable child created and pursued by the Living God.”

Each stranger is actually on the center stage of their life, acting as the main character while we, as passersby, may be nothing but fleeting background extras in their unfolding story, all while we take the spotlight in our own.

From one mere glance, we cannot possibly know the mountaintops or valleys a stranger traverses. We cannot possibly understand their highs and lows, or even believe that they could be as high or low as our own.

However, our perspective can fundamentally change if we believe that each stranger is a beloved, irreplaceable child created and pursued by the Living God.

The writer of Hebrews says when we are hospitable toward those we don’t know, we might be unknowingly entertaining angels.

Extending kindness and grace to strangers is a way to encounter the Divine, to ultimately cross paths with the Holy on a mundane Tuesday.

“We look like Jesus when we listen to and linger near strangers.”

We look like Jesus when we listen to and linger near strangers, when we don’t view people as threats or inconveniences, when we don’t let fear rob them of their humanity.

A hospitable spirit toward strangers is hard to manufacture on our own, especially when we’re running late, feeling impatient or scared, or just generally having an off day.

But we can always call on the Holy Spirit to grant us a softened heart and an unmerited compassion for anyone we meet.

Here is a liturgy that puts into words what may feel difficult or even inexpressible in your conversations with the Lord. Feel free to take these words and repeat them as a prayer at the start of your day, or any time you get ready to embark outside your front door:

A Liturgy for Showing Kindness to Strangers

Today, Oh God, we will brush against many we do not yet know
in the places that mark our lives:

offices,
stores,
traffic,
street corners,
lines.

Before stepping outside, we first ask for the unwarranted grace and self-forgetful love
to face the myriad and unpredictable temperaments of those around us.

“Refresh our memory of the kindness You first extended to us
so that we may freely give it to those we meet.”

Refresh our memory of the kindness You first extended to us
so that we may freely give it to those we meet.

Oh Lord, we do not know the weights others carry.
We do not know the heaviness with which a person got dressed this morning.
We do not see the grief that sits in their ribs like stones
or the joy we could so easily crush with any stray snideness.

May we walk and drive and move today as if the gospel were emblazoned on our chests,as if every word and action were an ambassador for You.

May even our thoughts toward strangers be lovely,
rooted in humility and dressed in compassion.

Oh Faithful One, we know that generosity of heart will not make us poor
and that we will not lack anything after giving away kindness too liberally.

Today we will practice blessing our fellow sojourners
and will expect nothing in return except for the pleasure of our Messiah.

For if kindness is motivated only by hope of reward,
then how are we living like You, the One who humbled Himself to the point of death?

Purify our intentions and rid us of pride
so that all who encounter us may be surprised by our light,
paused by our patience,
touched by our tenderness,
and—above all, Oh God—seen by the One who created their inmost being.

Amen.

By way of the South, both Audrey Elledge and Elizabeth Moore now live in New York City.

Audrey works at SparkNotes and Elizabeth at Penguin Random House, and they both serve at Church of the City New York.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Audrey and Elizabeth, dear friends who bonded over writing, were inspired to create an anchor of hope for their own local community, and they moved forward by turning to the past, to a time when Christians looked at the collapsing world around them and resolved to offer something beautiful—something true—through poetic prayers.

The stunning result is Liturgies for Hopetheir debut collection of modern liturgies reminiscent of past generations of faith and designed to awaken contemporary readers’ prayer lives. They are currently writing their second forthcoming collection of liturgies.

[ Our humble thanks to WaterBrook for their partnership in today’s devotion ]