Rags, Oil and Mud
On the way to 5 Senses to Prayer Book 2 - #10
I’m back. Sort of. There are three of us in our household who are still recovering from covid. Our combined catalogue of symptoms is long. While we have each had different symptoms from each other, we all share a general weariness, lethargy and exhaustion. But we’re inching forward with feeling incrementally better with each day. I’m up to writing - so that’s a bonus for me!
I’ve been thinking about sickness and the general messiness of life over these last few days. My baseline for ‘wellness’ is fixed at a lower level than most people. It’s a physical impossibilty for me to achieve any perfection in healthiness. My body is broken and I’m quite reconciled to this as a fact. In many ways it helps me recognise and celebrate the good in my life. Tough stuff happens in life. Life can be messy and hard and brutal. My own daily life pretty much always involves a climb over obstacles and challenges. The recovery from covid is just one more challenge in the mix. I’ve learned through experience to actively seek the good in every day, and this is helping me right now.
Jesus stopped and told some people to bring the blind man over to him. When the blind man was getting near, Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?”
“Lord, I want to see!” he answered.
Jesus replied, “Look and you will see! Your eyes are healed because of your faith.” At once the man could see, and he went with Jesus and started thanking God. When the crowds saw what happened, they praised God.
Luke 18:40-43 (CEV)
These little moments in a day keeping me moving forward are often sensory based. Finding joy and delight in the small things is much easier than trying to budge the big things that are causing stress and frustration. My conversations with God are often observational gratitude prayers for what I see, taste, touch, smell or hear around me. The sound of the tui singing in the Oak tree next door, the sight of the buds about to burst open on the cherry tree outside my window, the enveloping warmth of my freshly washed dressing gown, the taste of maple syrup, the smell of fresh laundry. From my own experience I find God in places that are ordinary, in the chores and tasks of daily life, in the smallest of interactions with others, in times of sickness, messiness and frustration.
I’ve chosen today’s prayers because they resonate with me right now. In one of the weird covid symptoms, while I still have my sense of smell, I keep getting a whiff of vinegar-like smell. So with a smile to myself, I thought I’d share a couple of smell prayers. The prayer based on the smell of an oily rag prayer matches how much energy I have right now. The dirty laundry prayer is one of those prayers that doesn’t sound great, but can be really profound.
Whatever your own frustrations, challenges, messes and problems are this week, may the presence of our God who walks with us, be with you.
On the journey
Oily Rag Prayer
Sense of Smell – Supplication & Petition (SM.SP.7)
The saying ‘Goes on the smell of an oily rag’ means you don’t need much gas to keep your car or other mechanical machine going. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out the difference between what we need and what we want. Dip a paper napkin in a bowl of infused olive oil. Hold the napkin to your nose and with the smell of an oily rag waved in front of you, talk to God about the things you need and the things you want. Ask God to help you adjust your thinking, so your needs are aligned with what God wants. Ask God to help you be happy, fulfilled and moving forward in your life and faith journey on the smell of an oily rag.
Getting ready checklist
· Oil on a rag which is safe to smell and will not combust – you could use a cooking oil with a strong smell such as peanut oil.
Further suggestions and adaptations on using this prayer
Provide a small bottle of infused olive oil, a small bowl, and a stack of small disposable napkins. Invite participants to just dip their index finger in the oil and rub their finger and thumb together with a drop of cooking oil, bringing their fingers to their nose to smell the oil. Provide instructions suggesting participants contemplate their own needs and wants. Provided paper and pens for them to make lists if they choose.
Use this prayer when you’re checking the oil in your car or other mechanical equipment or when you’re adding a drop of oil in cooking.
Pass around an oily rag. Participants won’t need to take it to their nose to smell the oil. Introduce the prayer and invite participants to make suggestions of needs and wants. The needs of one person might be the wants of someone else and vice versa. Talk about the saying “The smell of an oily rag”. What does that mean in living out our faith filled life? Invite participants to pray together for their needs and wants.
Pass around baskets with strips of cotton sheeting that have been dipped in oil. Invite participants to sit silently and contemplate their own needs and wants and to reflect on the difference between the two. Talk to the group about the ‘smell of an oily rag’. Lead a prayer from the front, pausing for participants to pray quietly in their seats for their own needs. Repeat again allowing a further pause for participants to pray for their own wants. End the prayer by asking God to be with the group, helping those who’ve prayed to be happy, fulfilled and moving forward on the smell of an oily rag.
Visual Images - Static, Projected, Live Props
· Mechanics, cars, machines which use oil
· Cooking oils and other kinds of oils
· People in wide range of scenarios prompting the difference between needs and wants (eg. Someone in hospital, on holiday, exercising, giving a hug, eating food, getting angry…)