A Prayer at My High School Class 60th Reunion [9-15-14]


I graduated from Classen High School in Oklahoma City in 1954, and on September 12, 2014 my class had a brief, but well-attended, 60th reunion outdoor picnic. I was asked to give the prayer for the meal, and I prepared the following prayer for that occasion. As it turned out, the lawn had a steep decline and was wet from a rain that had stopped just about an hour before we met. In that urgency of quick changes-in-plan, my thoughtful and profound [:)] prepared prayer was laid aside and a thirty-second quick-prayer was uttered. I am sure my classmates had no clue what a great prayer they had missed: a short meditation on what it meant to graduate from an all-white and privileged high school in 1954 Oklahoma.

On the hunch that there might be some readers out there who graduated from similar institutions, I hope this prayer might touch some chords.


O Lord—are you listening to this, or is this ritual exercise in praying merely a shot in the dark? Yes, if you are listening, we ask that question a lot. But we hope you are listening, because we are a bunch of old white folk who graduated from Classen High School in 1954.

So, you have heard of us before? And you know that we are getting older and older and that many are they who were classmates and have already died. Yes, we are the ones still alive or mostly alive or striving to stay alive amid grave doubts, enfeebling bodies, and haunting losses.

So, Lord, have you got us located now on that great cosmological map you keep?

We are gathered here at Mickey’s splendid place—yes, that is the same Mickey-the-pitcher whose rocket fastball sometimes went astray—to eat and visit with old friends, many not regularly or easily accessible otherwise.

Well, Lord, our lives have had some uncommon blessings and some rather common disappointments and misgivings.

So, we do confess right now that we did not have a clue when we received our diplomas in 1954 that we were exceptionally privileged in the great scope of life before thee.

We had no clue about the role fear, rivalry, and hatred would come to play in our actual living.

We had no clue how close death would linger around the edges of our lives.

We were completely oblivious to the fact that we had no black classmates or black friends, as a strange guilt festered within us.

We were clueless that we took for granted the inherent advantages socially and economically of being male rather than female.

We were utterly clueless about how many of us would be crippled with addictions fierce and unforgiving.

We were utterly clueless just how hard it would be to care about the truth when it seemed socially acceptable to tell and to repeat lies.

And Lord, we were clueless how hard it would be just to live with honesty and good will.

We were clueless about the hard demands of justice that might cut against our presumed self-interest.

We were clueless about what it would mean to have bodies that were destined to decline in health and function, about the role deaths and dying of loved ones would play in our lives.

We were utterly clueless about the tender mercies friends and strangers would convey to us in a sometimes tenuous future when we felt overwhelmed with doubt and fear.

And yes, Lord, we are surprised by some of the simple but enduring pleasures of friendship and family. And yes, we are surprised to be still alive as we live into these late seventies, maybe into our eighties.

But Lord, even as we might have doubts about thee and thy goodness and power, we do long for a healing of our wounds and a forgiving of our self-indulgences and a restoration of our capacity for great love.

Lord, we really do need to know whether there is a balm anywhere in Gilead?

And Lord, as we now begin to indulge ourselves with the delights of food, help us to remember just who those other old folks are who will be eating with us. And in remembering and eating, we pray that we might feel some surprising joys and renewed hopes.





Read More

Responses (7)


Share Your Response


Please enter the word you see in the image below:

Reader Responses

Mark Pumphrey

responded on 09/16/14

Joe, as one who is retiring on Jan. 1st. your honesty offered in prayer was both affirming and cutting. Thanks for all you have done and continue to do.


Hyla Glover

responded on 09/16/14

Dear Joe,

As you know, I was not able to attend the reunion.
However, I read your heartfelt prayer.
You captured our 18-year old lives, as well as our more mature selves. 

Thank you for your thoughtful prayer and for your friendship of long standing.









Randy Williams

responded on 09/16/14

Barth and Boring, both beg the notion that “Prayer is theology and theology is prayer.”  What does it mean to be clueless?  What does it mean to be 18?  In what ways at 78 is clueless still our state?  As I age, I know less and less about more and more.  What a beautiful thing that 60 years later, classmates gather to celebrate and remember!  What a beautiful thing to catch in this prayer a robust sense of being there.  Your prayer itself is testimony enough for me that God is still listening.  Pray on!   

Gene Daniels

responded on 09/16/14

Joe, I also wonder about that “balm” when I am praying but I know enough to keep praying and believe the prayers that I send forward will be answered in His own way and time. I think they they missed out on a great one and I hope all them receive your notes and will be able to read it and think of the things you pointed out. I think we all look back on our lives and realize now important some of the things we lived through were an important moment in our lives. Thanks for your thoughts and insight.

Gene Daniels

Gene Challenner

responded on 09/19/14

Thank you Joe. Your great, thoughtful prayer speaks for a whole generation of us privileged kids of the 50’s. It’s a shame your fellow graduates couldn’t hear it but let’s hope that many of them did read your blog.

The realization of our privileged status came slowly to many of us, only starting in the 1960’s, but often taking much longer. Unfortunately, as we know too well, it never took with some, leading to much of the divisiveness and hatred today.

Thank you again, Joe.

Carol Saulsberry Rose

responded on 11/20/14

Joe:  You touched me in your prayer about our naive and delightful time of life in Classen High School, Class of 1954.  Many times I have discussed these subjects, but not in depth or as articulate as your have provided for us.  Most of us have grown up to accepting that many did not have those privileges or equal education and feel a little guilty.  Attending the 50 Freedom Summer Conference in Jackson, Ms, with classmate, Bobby Scales, brought that home to me as we listened to SNCC volunteers recount how that experience impacted their lives.  Bob had a special reason to attend in order to gain insight on how to honor a colleague who led most of the Parades in Greenville, Ms,
Thanks to Deborah for sending me this link.  I will pass it on to Bob and other classmates.

Blessings to you and Sarah.  Donna enjoyed her times with Sarah in Muskogee.  Both of us send her peace and beautiful sunrises and sunsets with her beloved Joe and family.


responded on 05/24/16

Thank you for sharing.  I used your prayers for ideas I did not read it word for word but thank you for sharing