Prayer Shawl Ministry Like a Wearable Hug

last updated March 23, 2021

Today as I write, I’m wrapped in a prayer shawl given to me last November by some of the knitters in our church.

Fall had been tough with my husband in the hospital for six long weeks. Due to the pandemic, I was able to see him just twice in the first two weeks, but when he was transferred to the oncology unit, I was finally able to see him every day. Most often I would arrive early so I wouldn’t miss the chance to talk to his doctors, then take a break in the middle of the day, and be back for the afternoon until supper. We were both so grateful that we could have that time together!

One day when I came home, I found two neatly tied bags at our front door. Each bag held a hand-made shawl with a note:

I would like to introduce you to what Prayer Shawls are, and why you are receiving one today. A group of ladies knit these shawls to give comfort to people who are hurting through various reasons. It could be the loss of a loved one or a serious health issue, loss of job or numerous other issues. Every time we pick up our knitting we say a little prayer, “that whoever receives this shawl may they be comforted by its warmth and know that others care and that God loves them.”

Along with each prayer shawl, there was some extra matching yarn with more words of blessing. Mine read:

This shawl was made for you with love

to bless you, to heal you,

and comfort you.

May you rest in its warmth

as you feel the nearness

of the God who loves you.

I had heard of the prayer shawl ministry before, started in 1998 by Janet Severi Bristow and Victoria Galo to combine prayer, caring, and the love of knitting and crocheting. I knew that our congregation had an active prayer shawl ministry to comfort those in need. I had already been told that two prayer shawls were on their way to us—one for my husband in the hospital and one for me too.

But it wasn’t until I held my prayer shawl in my hands and wrapped it around my shoulders that I understood more personally what a comfort and blessing such a shawl could be. It was truly a comfort shawl, a peace shawl, “a wearable hug crafted with love and intent from maker to recipient.” The love and prayers worked into every stitch made me want to cry, and the end of the enclosed note made me smile, “This shawl has also been packed according to Covid 19 guidelines.”

Of course Covid had to make a difference to the prayer shawl ministry, just as it had made a difference in our worship and in every other ministry. What’s more, our church’s prayer shawl ministry has expanded since the pandemic began, with more knitters required to meet the need.

I’m grateful for all those around the world who lovingly and prayerfully give themselves to the ministry of creating and giving prayer shawls. I’m grateful for those in my congregation who faithfully pray, care, and create prayer shawls for those who are hurting. I pray that their quiet work might bring comfort, strength, and peace to all those who receive their caring and prayers. And may God’s great compassion and mercy rest on each one who is hurting.

Does your church have a prayer shawl ministry? Have you ever received or given a prayer shawl? For more information, patterns, and prayers, see Prayer Shawl Ministry Home Page.

_______________

For more encouragement and resources on doing ministry better:

Author: April Yamasaki

I currently serve as resident author with a liturgical worship community, write online and in print publications, and often speak in churches and other settings. Publications include On the Way with Jesus, Four Gifts, Sacred Pauses, and other books on Christian living. Websites: AprilYamasaki.com and WhenYouWorkfortheChurch.com.

2 thoughts

  1. I received my first prayer shawl when I was fighting cancer. It was a surprise to me to find out that Menno Place has a prayer shawl ministry and because of Covid19, I have been in charge of handing out the yarn to the knitters in Primrose gardens. Because I should not be shopping my daughter Jackie has taken on that task. She also knits as do I and I have recruited several new residents to the task. It has been very helpful to have such an important task to do when we can do very little else. My oldest and fastest knitter is 97.
    God bless, Leona Krause

  2. Thank you for sharing, Leona. Your experience is a wonderful example of passing on the love—receiving a prayer shawl yourself and now you’re knitting and recruiting others for this ministry. What a blessing you are! And yes, making prayer shawls and extending comfort to others is important work at 97 and any age. More power to you, your oldest and fastest knitter, and all those engaged in this ministry.

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