Journey Prayers


I carry a stack of 3×5 cards, held together with a rubber band. On them are words that I have collected, prized words that I say to myself most days. I stick them in my bags and pull them out to remind me of where I stand and where I am going.

To be sure, they are not inspirational words; they are not words that merely make me feel good. But, the words move me and guide me. They are coaching words, reminding me of the goal and to keep going. They are encouraging words, my partner words that tell me we are almost there. They are pilgrim words that are ahead me and point to my place in the world. They ensure that I stay on track, that I maintain my position, that I keep it moving.

Prayer is not merely moving one’s lips but prayer moves us. Prayer can and does take us places. Where you say? Oh, places like grace and peace, hope and destiny. They are places that are specifically designed and prepared for us.

These are not prayers that we take with us but prayers that take us with them. They are words that require a response and that cause us to act. They travel in packs and come in groups. They are not magical but they do work mysteriously. While they are said, we do not know exactly how they perform but they do work.

These prayers do not define the journey but the remind us of our destination. I call them journey prayers. I discovered that they existed when I found these words of W. E. B. Du Bois from his book Prayers for Dark People:

Give us the grace, O God, to dare to do the deed which we well know cries to be done. Let us not hesitate because of ease or the words of men’s mouths or our own lives. Mighty causes are calling us—the freeing of women, the training of children, the putting down of hate and murder and poverty—all these and more. But they call with voices that mean work and sacrifice and death. Mercifully grant us, O God, the spirit of Esther, that we say: I will go unto the King and if I perish, I perish. Amen.”

It is my sincere prayer that you might find some traveling words too.

smcneillReverend Starlette McNeill* is an associate pastor at Village Baptist Church in Bowie, Maryland and the Minister to Empower Congregations at the D.C. Baptist Convention. She writes on the social construct of race and the practice of faith at Her hobbies include reading, writing, and Starbucks.

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  1. I am going to go out and look for the book cited here. Thanks for the idea.