Holy God, holy Friend, another tough week. It is times like we remember that prayer is not merely our privilege but a necessity, that we need to reach out to you and be centered in your love and peace. Hold us gently as we pray, and speak to us in turn, that we may answer prayer in your name.
Jesus, we believe that all things are created in you, and that you are in everything, what we can see and what we can’t. And yet creation is wounded today, just as you were wounded on the cross. We pray for those suffering from violence in Nice, in South Sudan, in America, in Turkey. We pray that those wounds, like your wounds, would not go to waste, but would be a turning point towards healing. May we respond to suffering not with the ridicule and sarcasm of the Roman soldiers who taunted you on the cross, but with compassion and love so great that all people become reconciled. We long to see a world resurrected from its pain—to see people gather without fear, trusting that they will hold each other in respect and love.
We pray also today—and this is hard to do, but it was your commandment—for those who have killed and wounded others this week. We pray that we might work to heal their wounds as well, and the wounds of the communities they come from, that they might not fester with such hatred and blindness. Help us not to return evil with evil but to look at even the person whose actions horrify us as one whom you have placed in our care. Help us do this—it is more than what we can do alone.
Jesus, as we remember that you have reconciled the whole world to yourself through the cross, help us also remember that you entered Mary and Martha’s home to bring peace between them—that those two women were as important to you as the whole world. As we pray and work for peace between nations and cultures, we also pray for peace between every individual person. Teach us to gently call out behavior that demeans or bullies another; teach us to ask lovingly for what we need; teach us to share each other’s load. If we are overwhelmed by the hatred in the world, teach us to be kind to the people in our reach. If we are overwhelmed by the fear in the world, teach us to be brave in following you. If we are overwhelmed by all that needs to be done, teach us to tackle one piece at a time. In the words of the old song, let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with us.
In the midst of so much hard news, we pray our gratitude for the flashes of joy, peace, and freedom that you bestow on us—for time with family and friends, for beautiful summer days and abundant harvest, for the dedication of the members of this church to its mission, and most of all, for your presence among us.
In the week ahead, we ask that you help us focus on you, and not be distracted from your commandments to love God and neighbor, no ifs, ands, or buts. We ask that you hold us together when we begin to spin apart, just as you keep the world spinning on its axis.
We add now the prayers of our hearts, knowing that you listen with love to each one:
[prayers of the congregation may be spoken here]
For these and all other concerns of our hearts, spoken and unspoken, we offer our prayers.
And now we offer the prayer that your people have prayed for millennia, which has carried us through all the violence and fear and peace and healing of the years, the prayer Jesus himself offered to us: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.