a prayer for life’s opportunities

God our Father, you have filled our lives with opportunities. Help us to miss none of these opportunities when they come to us.

Help us not to miss the opportunities of learning and help us to work, to study, to train, and to accept your discipline so that we may:

deepen our lives;
enrich our minds;
learn our trade;
master our craft;
be efficient in our job;
and be equipped for our profession.

Help us never to miss the opportunities of helping others that we may be ready:

to share with the poor;
to sympathize with the sad;
to encourage the depressed;
to help those who’ve made mistakes to get back on track again;
to lend a hand to those who are finding things difficult.

Help us to never miss an opportunity to show where we stand that we may:

set a Christian example wherever we are;
always make it easier for others to do and be good;
never make it easy for others to do any wrong thing;
always be good advertisements of you and your church.

So help us to grasp every opportunity you send, and to use every gift you have given us, that we may make our lives what you meant them to be.

God our Father of life, you give us peace at the end of this day, your gift. Grant that your restfulness would rest on us throughout the rest of this week. Let the praises of our lips give to you every day prays that you are due from our lives. May the power of your love be with us in everything we do. By purity and knowledge and tenderness may we glorify you, through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Excerpted, and lightly edited from, A Barclay Prayer Book by William Barclay (Westminster John Knox Press, 1990), first published under the titles Epilogues and Prayers (1963) and Prayers for the Christian Year (1964)

american grace (7)

… many researchers have found that religious people are happier. Indeed, a common finding is that religiosity is among the closest correlates of life satisfaction, at least as strong as income. Why that might be true remains a matter of some controversy (like almost everything else about religion). However, to our surprise, the linkage between religion and life satisfaction seems to be virtually identical in form to the linkage between religion and good neighborliness:

  • As with good neighborliness, the correlation between religiosity and life satisfaction is powerful and robust. It remains strong even when we hold constant the same long list of other factors that might have made the correlation spurious. Other things being equal, the difference in happiness between a non-churchgoer and a weekly churchgoer is slightly larger than the difference between someone who earns $10,000 a year and his demographic twin who earns $100,000 a year.
  • As with good neighborliness, religious people are more satisfied with their lives mostly because they build religious social networks, thus reinforcing a strong sense of religious identity. A person who attends church regularly but has no close friends there is actually unhappier than her demographic twin who doesn’t attend church at all.
  • As with good neighborliness, religious friends remain very important, even when we compare people with equal numbers of friends overall, and in that sense religious friendship seems supercharged. Moreover, as with good neighborliness, the effects of religious social networks do not depend on maintaining a religiously homogeneous social environment; on the contrary, people whose closest friends are all from the same religion are, other things being equal, less happy than those whose friends are diverse.
  • As with good neighborliness, theological and denominational differences appear to have virtually nothing to do with the linkage between life satisfaction in religiosity.
  • As with good neighborliness, comparing changes in religiosity and in life satisfaction in our 2006 and 2007 interviews suggest that the correlation might be causal. People who become more religious become happier.

In short, as with good neighborliness, the religious age in life satisfaction has less to do with faith itself than with communities of faith. For happiness as for neighborliness, praying together seems to be better than either bowling together or praying alone.

American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us by Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell (Simon & Schuster, 2010), pp.490-492