Once a month I type up revisions to my parish's prayer sheet. This is a sheet that gets distributed to the congregation each month with updated lists of people to pray for: people in need of healing, people we work with in church outreaches, local and national community leaders, missionaries and ministry workers connected to our church in some way, people being persecuted for their faith. It's a long list. Included in it are also diocesan and international prayer cycles: we pray for various bishops, priests, deacons, and lay people at work in our diocese, in our national church body, and in the wider Anglican communion.
I long ago discovered that it's easier for me to type in the rotating lists of names than to try to lift them from online sources and paste them in. That's particularly true for the communion-wide list, which is printed online in such a way that moving names via copy/paste would wreak formatting havoc with my document, leaving me with lots to clean up and reformat. Despite the fact that it may seem a little tedious to have to type all names in one at a time, especially when some of the names are unusual to this English speaker and not easy to spell, it's still faster and tidier than doing it any other way, in my humble opinion. But more than that, it gives me time to think, ponder, and pray my way through the list as I type.
There's something wonderfully grounding and connecting about typing in a person's name (and making sure you've spelled it accurately). Even though you may never have seen or even heard of this person, typing their name somehow gives you a tangible link with who they are. Since all of the names I'm working with are names of leaders, mostly bishops and archbishops, I know that each one of them has a challenging role and a lot on their hearts, no matter where they serve. Some of the names I type in with ease, and some I stumble over, breaking them into unusual syllables and then putting them back together, wondering if my mental pronunciation is anywhere close to how you actually say the name. Some of the bishops are in countries torn by war or where Christians face daily persecution. As I type their names, I find myself lifting each of them to God and praying that the Lord will watch over his servant.
And I love the names. Some of them have three or four names, many of them biblical. Then there are names (first, middle, or last) that evoke a picture: names like Godson, Maker, and Coffin (all fascinating names for bishops, I think). There are African names like Aladekugbe and Asian names like Iso. There are names that bring to mind Irish, Scots, or Welsh saints.
Sometimes I confess I am tired when prayer-sheet revision time rolls around, and part of me doesn't feel like taking the time to scroll through the lists and type in the letters. But most of me realizes that by the time I'm done, I will feel more in tune and more connected with people of God all around the world, and more gratefully aware of the myriad of stories that are all connected just in this one slim chapter of the story of the communion of the saints. I know my typing in these lists is just a tiny service but it's one that refuels me every month to remember what a privilege is it to be part of the worldwide body of Christ and to pray for my family.