Easter Prayer Practice 2022: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

This prayer practice was developed by Rev. Patrick Sipes for First Evangelical Lutheran Church in North Platte, Nebraska. Offered at the beginning of worship during the season of Easter 2022.

“she still likes shoulder rides” by moominmolly on flickr.com

Two thoughts are leading us into this prayer practice for the rest of the season of Easter. One is a 10 cent word that I came across in my studies, “generativity”, which is a word that carries a lot with it. There is a sense of the word that speaks to the ability of something to be able to create or generate new things or life. There is a sense that it speaks to a concern to nurture and guide younger people and contribute to the next generation. There is a sense that to be generative is to be in and remain in a cycle of growth rather than decline. I bring this up not to increase your vocabulary but to point out that one thing healthy churches have in common is that they are generative, and that the more generative a church is, the healthier it tends to be.

Generativity does not just come out of nowhere however, it really takes a sense that you are involved in something bigger than yourself, something that started before you were here, and something that will continue when you are gone. A sense that we contribute to things directly for a few seasons, but that the more important contribution we make is not to the thing itself, but rather the indirect contribution of raising up and training those who will carry on after us, and then giving them the freedom to continue as they see fit and to adjust to the world as they need to.

In thinking of this, the phrase, “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” came to my mind. It dates back to the 12th century to Bernard of Chartres, but is usually attributed to Issacc Newton, who, in a letter to Robert Hooke, said to Hooke, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” What Newton and Bernard were getting at is that they did not get to the places they were, they did not make the discoveries they did, they did not create all that they did, without all of the work that had come before them, without all this, they would be nothing.

As we gather today, we stand on the shoulders of giants. We have played our part, but we did not found this church or the town of North Platte, and even those that did, did not start the Church or found civilization, we are where we are after a long line of people. And so I invite you today in prayer to start with recognizing whose shoulders you stand on, who got you to where you are, who your teachers and mentors and inspirations have been. Take some time to thank God for these people.

 And then, pray for who you would like to place on your shoulders, what is it that you have to pass on, to teach, to gift to another, and who might that be? My hope is that you will be able to reach out to them in the near future, but you need to know who first. And so let us pray over these things today, Whose shoulders do we stand on, and who we would like to stand on ours?

Time for reflection.