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Herbert F. Vetter: Prayers

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The archer hits the target partly by pulling, partly by letting go;
the boatman reaches the landing partly by pulling, partly by letting go.

Before You, O God, I would learn the rhythm of relaxed strength. I would find my quiet, constant rhythm in society and solitude, work and play, duty and pleasure—in all of my relations with persons and with groups. In worship I would find You as the Many-in-One uniting all these opposites; I would find You whose presence is fullness of joy.

In You do I put my trust, O God. Whether I move against or with the stream, You are my strength. Through Your constant movement through life’s ebb and flow, day and night, summer and winter, I find the wholesome rhythm of my own life.

Let there be fused within my spirit the moving waters of upstream-downstream faith. When swinging upstream, my soul exults in risk and danger, embracing the uncertainty of new adventure, keeping the fibres of the mind forever tough. When carried downstream to my destinaation without a struggle, I would inscribe upon the memory the full security of trust: In You I am relaxed and reassured partly by pulling, partly by letting go.


Beloved One,
Whose presence we know each time we breathe,
We rejoice in Your rhythmic power sustaining us each moment.
Eternal One,
Whose strength we experience day and night in the tides of the sea,
We rejoice in the constancy of Your power to ebb and flow.
Embraceable One,
Whose body includes each member of the human family,
We rejoice that each of us is a precious portion of Your power.
All-knowing One,
Whose passion for knowledges is limited only by our freedom,
We rejoice that we, too share the search to know ourselves, our world, and You, our Eternal Friend.


Blessed are You, O Bountiful Power,
Who feeds us and gives life to our flesh,
Who fills our hearts with joy and happiness,
And helps us to help others to be whole.


Eternal Present Power,
Our hope is that in each event today we may
Accept our past,
Anticipate our future, and
Actualize our finest present possibilities.


In the silence, O God, You constantly surround our growing life.

We know You in the silence of the healing wound, the muteness of tenderness, the quiet growth within the sleeping child, the unspoken bonds uniting friend and friend, the still intensity of meditation, the soundless splendor of our changing seasons.

We know You in the sacred silence of our bodies: the secret movement of the hidden cells, the noiseless restoration of the tissues’ balance, the unheard ebb and flow within each artery and vein.

We know You in the magic silence of our minds: the mystery of memory, retaining after-images of childhood, youth, and later years; the miracle of imagination, whereby we behold our visions of the city unattained; the marvel of attention, when the mind is focused to absorption on some needful task.

We know You in the hidden silence of our hearts: the never uttered depths of love between a man and a woman, a teacher and a student, a parent and a child; the art of being altogether for another; the faith restoring faith that someone else is utterly for you.

We know You in the fateful silences of faith. We know You in the sacrament of silence.


May we forever hope in the possibilities of life;
May we forever share the adventures of ideas;
May we know peace through not expecting the impossible;
May we know joy through helping what is possible come true.


O God, we believe in the wholeness of life, made known though moving power in wind and sea, and as awakening love within the human heart.
We believe in the goodness of life, of new life struggling to be born, of all life yearning for fulfillment.
We believe in human destiny, the opportunity of each to find the meaning of life through joyful empowerment and reverent service.
We believe that beneath the brokenness of tragedy lie seeds of new creation: that tragedy need never be in vain.


Tame my heart, O God.
Trim my illusions.
Subdue these wild desires that lead to nowhere:
The desire to seem much wiser and much better than I am;
The desire to win, win, win, and never lose;
The desire to retreat when life cries for advance.
This is my prayer to You and to myself:
I pray for inward honesty, for disciplines of soul;
I pray that You will shatter my illusions and tame my restless heart.


What do we love when we love You, O God?
The beauty of bodies moving in space,
The brightness of light so glad to our eyes,
The fragrance of flowers, bread, wine,
The rhythms of time and melodies of song,
Persons we hold in beloved embrace:
These we love when we love You.
We also love an ampler beauty of body-mind Power:
An ever living fire of Light,
An ever open sky of Harmony,
An always moving Earth of fragrance,
The ecstasy of union which is Love itself:
These we love when we love You.
You do ever send as our strength
What space-time can and cannot contain,
What eating and drinking can and cannot increase,
What wise people can and cannot name,
What citizens of Earth can and cannot see:
The perpetual miracle of endless living Power
Which we love when we love You, Most Beloved One.

Herbert F. Vetter (1923-2014 ) was Minister at Large, Emeritus, of the First Parish in Cambridge, Unitarian Universalist, where he founded Cambridge Forum national radio and public television broadcasts and was a chaplain to Harvard University. He is the founder of Harvard Square Library.