taking the words of Jesus seriously

I’ve been thinking recently about how social distancing may create an opportunity to practice solitude. But what I’ve realized is that for many of us, it is not necessarily clear how to make the most of our solitude. Prayer is hard on your own. Without the weekly encouragement and example of praying together in communal worship, our own individual prayer lives can feel dull or diminished. So, I thought I’d try to offer some “Living Room Liturgies” that you, your family, or you with some folks on a Zoom call can use to give prayer a bit of structure. This particular one centers on laughter.

Laughter is an important part of our lives together. It lightens the spirit, strengthens social bonds, spreads joy, and communicates delight. This liturgy intends to help Christians laugh with God and each other for all of those benefits just mentioned. At the same time, Sarah laughs when she hears God promise something that seems impossible to her (Genesis 18). So, our laughter may also be a sign that we love and worship a God who makes possible the impossible. Finally, our laughter is a sign that the devil has no lasting power. As Julian of Norwich laughed at the devil in her own sickness, we laugh with God in the face of all evil. Is there a time for mourning and grief? Yes. But there must also be time for laughter, for dancing, for joy.

May the Lord bless you as you pray!

What will you need?

  1. A Bible.
  2. A refreshing beverage.
  3. Any instruments you have laying around. No instruments? Hands for clapping and feet for stomping will do.

Where should you be?

Anywhere will do, but preferably somewhere comfortable. A living room is great or, if it’s pleasant outside, why not sit on your porch?

Who should you be with?

If your location is still under guidelines to social distance, then you shouldn’t be physically with anyone except the people with whom you live. By all means, Zoom or Skype or FaceTime with anyone else. Share the link to this liturgy with them so they can follow along.

How should you prepare for this liturgy?

Things will work best if one person guides others in praying the liturgy. It is written so that a guide (ONE) can simply pray the words as they’re written, inviting others to read aloud together when suggested (ALL). The guide is free to improvise or to elaborate as needed.

READ: Love They Sick Neighbor: A Liturgy In Times of the Coronavirus

A Prayer for Laughter

ONE: Let us enjoy together a minute or so in silence. Breathe deeply. Stretch. Smile at one another. (pause)

Let them with dancing praise God, with tambourine and song;
With harp, make praise and music which to God’s name belong.
ALL: For God the Lord takes pleasure in those who are God’s own;
God crowns them with salvation, the humble ones alone.

ONE: Lord, we confess that we have sinned against you,
ALL: For we have not been joyful always, as You command.**
ONE: Forgive us we pray, as Christ pleads on our behalf.
ALL: We repent of this sin and, by your help, we will live anew. Amen.

ONE: As forgiven people seeking to live into our repentance, let us discover joy together in the presence of God.

Option 1: Take time to think of the something that made you really laugh—I mean, tears-producing-belly-laugh. Let us each share that story with one another. Take time to laugh with one another.

Option 2: Pick a favorite upbeat song. Dance with each other. Stomp your feet. Clap your hands. Sing loud. Shout the lyrics out your window to the cars driving by. Laugh at yourselves and with the group. 

Option 3: See how long you can smile silently at one another. If you do not laugh, keep smiling bigger until you do.

Option 4: Do you have a game or a video that makes you laugh? Play it or watch it now, together, and pick up from here when you’ve finished. (Yes, the game or video counts as praying.)

ONE: Let us give thanks and praise to the Lord our God.

Lord, we give you thanks for You have turned our mourning into joy.
ALL: You are good all the time; all the time you are good.
ONE: Lord, we give you thanks for You have given us gladness for our sorrow.
ALL: You are good all the time; all the time you are good.
ONE: Lord, we give you thanks for You feast our souls with abundance.
ALL: You are good all the time; all the time you are good.
ONE: Lord, we give you thanks for You have satisfied us with your goodness.
ALL: You are good all the time; all the time you are good.

ONE: Let us hear now the word of God for the people of God. As the word is read aloud, whenever you are reminded of God’s own delight or when you see God giving others joy, respond to the word by raising your glass for a toast to God’s delight in us and the power of God’s joy in our lives.

Option 1: Psalm 18:20-29
Option 2: Zephaniah 3:14-20
Option 3: Genesis 18:1-15

ONE: What did you learn about God from this passage, and why does that seem important? How did you feel as you listened to this passage? Did anything surprise you in this passage? Does this passage remind you of other Scriptures, and how do they help you better understand what this passage says?

Grab an instrument, or warm up your hands for clapping, and get ready to sing. Let us dance together, if you are able.

ALL: Joyful, joyful, we adore You,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before You,
Opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!

Always giving and forgiving,
Ever blessing, ever blest,
Well-spring of the joy of living,
Ocean-depth of happy rest!
Loving Father, Christ our Brother,
Let Your light upon us shine;
Teach us how to love each other,
Lift us to the joy divine.***

ONE: O Lord, for whom nothing is impossible. Help us to laugh in the face of all that threatens us, to laugh in the face of evil itself, that we may live into the joy You’ve prepared for us in Christ our Lord, through whom we pray (and snicker) even now.

ALL: Amen.

ALL: (Singing, if you choose) Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise God all creatures here below.
Praise God above ye heavenly hosts.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.


*Psalm 149:3-4 

** 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

***This prayer is inspired by the words of Jeremiah 31:15-16.

****Verses 1 and 3 of “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.” 

About The Author


Zen Hess pastors St. Peter’s First Community Church in Huntington, IN. He writes regularly for Theology Forum.

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