A Prayer for Containment

When  we are tempted to be fearful, teach us peace.

When we are temped to hoard, teach us generosity.

When we want to look only to the wellbeing of our own family, teach us to expand our care.

When we become overwhelmed and disengaged, teach us to feel the pain of others.

When we are financially unstable, teach us to find ways to live smaller.

When we are disappointed, teach us joy in sacrifice.

When we are tempted to despair, teach us to remember that you are still God, and that you are still good.

When we think we know it all, teach us to listen harder.

When we struggle to decide what to do in small ways, teach us to pray for those in positions of authority.

When we are tempted to despise the actions of others, teach us to see behind foolishness and negative behaviour to the hurt beneath.

When we respond to rising tension in haste and without consideration, teach us patience.

When we are tempted to blame others, teach us to have grace for decisions made in a time of fluctuating information and changing conditions.

When we are isolated, teach us to find ways to connect–with you and with others.

When we feel bored, teach us to expand our creativity.

When we feel alone, teach us to ask for help.

When we feel strong, teach us to care for those who are not.

When we are tempted to despondency, teach us to see all the varied goodness that surrounds us.

When we are tempted to be careless, teach us to see each action we take as resonating in the lives of others.

When we feel we can do nothing, teach us how very wrong we are.

Above all this, teach us to love.

Now more than ever.

Amen.

How are you finding ways to reach out to your community despite “social distancing”? How are others reaching out to you? In what ways are you finding beauty, life, and creativity in a time of increasing anxiety? Feel free to leave a comment to encourage others!

A Prayer for Iraq and Syria

1623617_10152579606750590_2673355775065316097_nI have been watching with growing horror the news reports out of Iraq as ISIS continues to take ground there and systematically and brutally murder religious minorities. I have read of atrocities I would like to disbelieve. I have seen pictures I wish I could forget. I have found myself in tears listening to a Yadizi member of Iraqi Parliament plead for her people. And in tears again as I read of people fleeing – with nothing – from a place of terror to a place no longer considered safe. And in tears again as I read of thousands of people trapped in the mountains in the heat – with no water, no food, and little hope of survival. I have felt utterly helpless, and have been tempted toward despair.
 
But faith tells me that prayer is effective. So I offer this prayer on behalf of all the minorities suffering in Iraq and Syria at this moment (not just those who follow Christ).  And, because God’s compassion does not discriminate, I offer this prayer also for those who were indoctrinated with hate at a very young age and are now committing atrocities that will, one day, by the grace of God, fill them with horror.

Lord, God – how long?

How long must we bear the taint of sin

That sucks and pulls at our humanity?

Suffering God, hear the cry of your people in Iraq and Syria!

In your name ISIS butchers.

In your name ISIS tortures children.

In your name ISIS rapes and steals and murders.

Lord come quickly to uphold your name.

Reveal to the blinded their own actions.

Bring them to their knees with weeping.

Unveil to them the depth of their evil.

Turn them from darkness before they are lost.

You are the living water – bring water to the thirsty.

You are the bread of life – bring food to the hungry.

You are the good shepherd – guide the escape of the fleeing.

You are the true vine – provide community for the wandering.

You are the light of the world – give clear vision to those who lead.

You are the gate – provide safe haven for those in danger.

You are the resurrection and the life – give hope to the dying.

You are the way, the truth, and the life –provide a future for the destitute.

For you have not despised the suffering of the afflicted ones.

You feel every cut of the knife.

You share their agony.

You share their fear.

You share their weeping.

You share their hunger and thirst.

You share their poverty and displacement.

Lord Jesus, come quickly to help them.

Lamb of God, hear their cry.

And for us, who are distant:

Keep us from complacency.

Help us to not be overwhelmed into inactivity

By the size of this struggle.

Open our eyes to what we can do.

Teach us to pray.

Teach us to use our resources wisely.

Keep our hearts broken.

Keep our eyes wet with tears.

Come, Lord Jesus,

come quickly.

Thank you for taking the time to pray. If you want to explore other options for action, consider writing a letter to your local politician asking for political action in this situation – including the offering of asylum to refugees. Or participate in an international day of prayer and fasting on Wednesday, August 15th (link below). Also consider supporting one of the organizations (listed below) doing good relief and reconciliation work in Iraq and Syria.

The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East: http://frrme.org/

Iraq Refugee Crisis: http://www.gofundme.com/iraq-refugee-crisis

An Urgent Call to Prayer

Canadians can sign this petition to urge their government toward action.

This is a good interview that puts some things in perspective: http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2014/07/25/wearen-media-misses-iraqi-christian-persecution/

Support the persecuted church: http://info.persecution.org/iraqi-crisis/

Please feel free to suggest additional organizations in the comments.

A Prayer of Rememberance

 We live in a community with a strong military presence. The base is only a few kilometers away, and many families choose to live in Bon Accord or Gibbons rather than on the base itself. So when Remembrance Day fell on a Sunday last year, and we were asked to participate in the service, our small church decided that we would serve the town by attending the town ceremony and serving lunch. I know there are complex and thorny theological issues of pacifism and Christian participation in war that need to be navigated each year at this time. But for us, it was simply a matter of understanding where God has placed us, and moving toward our community rather than away from it. My husband prayed during the ceremony, I sang O Canada (as their original singer backed out at the last moment), my husband read the Canadian poem “In Flander’s Fields” in his Irish accent, and our whole church served lunch. This is the prayer my husband wrote:

Merciful and loving God,

We come before you in praise and remembrance.

Be with us today,

In our heads and in our understanding,

In our mouths and in our speaking,

In our hearts and in our acting,

As we remember.

We remember the horrors of war, past and present:

The death and destruction,

The fear and terror.

 We remember that many throughout your world still live where

War and terror,

Violence and injustice,

Are part of daily life.

 We remember women and men who have

Struggled for peace,

Stood against evil,

And sought justice

With their bodies, their minds, their futures, and their lives.

We offer prayers of thankfulness and care

For those who died that we might live,

For those who suffered and still suffer in the defence of the dignity of all people.

And we ask that you would be with all those who have lost a loved one or wait for a loved one to return.

We are saddened, with you,

By the evil which damages and destroys life,

By the people who have seen the darkness of war.

We ask that your presence would be with those who struggle for justice and peace in our world.

And we ask that you would comfort and strengthen those who suffer from oppression, isolation, and sorrow.

For those qualities in us that make war possible,

For times when we have not sought justice or peace,

For times when we have deadened our spirits to the suffering of others,

Forgive us, we pray,

 

We look forward to the day

When you will cause all wars to cease,

When you will change our weapons into tools of human flourishing,

When our loved ones will return home,

When you will heal your world.

Amen.

 

A Prayer for Mental Health

The week of May 6th is mental health awareness week – a friend asked me to write a prayer that Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries could circulate to churches (check out their website for some great resources and events). As someone who struggles with depression, and has witnessed family and friends also wading through the mire of mental illness, it was a task I was eager to undertake. Mental illness carries a heavy weight of stigma and misunderstanding. In reality, it is both subtle and pervasive. It is varied. All of us swing somewhere on its pendulum. This prayer is intended to reveal Christ’s presence within the pain and difficulty we all experience. Then, out of that state of sympathy, we can pray more fully for those who struggle with profoundly damaging levels of mental illness. May we pray with passion and with enduring sympathy.

Please feel free to take and use this liturgy in your church.
 
The bold print is to be read by the congregation. The plain print and the italic print by two different readers. The final section of the prayer may be read by either of the two readers (or both), or by a third reader. The first section of liturgy incorporates Psalm 23, and parts of Deuteronomy 31 and Joshua 1.
 

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

Although sometimes we feel we lack everything. Sometimes we cannot see what you have given us through the lie of what has been taken away. Show us how to see your blessing. Show us how to see your provision when the world teaches us an economy of fear and scarcity.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.

Refresh us, Lord. Let the raging waters be quite. Let dry pastures be watered. Let us lie down and rest without fear.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

We so often turn from your path—believing lies about ourselves, about others, about you; taking on burdens that are not ours to bear; struggling to entrust you with ourselves, our family, our friends, and our circumstances. Guide us along your path of trust and contentment.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

The valley of depression, the valley of medication, the valley of sorrow, the valley of pain and abandonment, the valley of past wrongs done to me, the valley of despair, the valley of derision, the valley of fear, the valley of waiting, the valley of misunderstanding.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of the valley in which you walk, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

Although we sometimes feel abandoned, you have not left us alone. You have not left us alone with our depression, with our sorrow, our pain, our illness, our despair, our fear, our waiting. You have not left us alone with the past wrongs that have been done to us, with the derision and misunderstanding of others. You have not left us alone. You are with us.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

With your rod, you protect us from ourselves. With your staff, you protect us from the harm of others. Your truth comforts us, as we find our identity wholly and firmly locked up in you.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

Although we are surrounded by people who do not understand the weight we bear, the struggles we face, we gather to eat at your table. Although we suffer ignorant comments, laughter, and sometimes shame—we are worthy to eat at your table. We can eat our fill—even feast—because you have not despised us. You have made us welcome.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

You have made us worthy. You have made us chosen. You accept us with all our flaws, with all our illness and frailty, with all our failings. You have anointed us, us, to serve with you—our cup overflows with joy.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,

Surely goodness and love will follow us. Surely goodness and love will chase us down—despite ourselves, despite others, despite our circumstances—goodness and love, by the power and grace of your Spirit, have found us. And will never let us go.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Forever. In health, in strength, in love, in mercy. Forever. Amen.

The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

And as we rest in that assurance, we pray for those who live without it, and who live with the pain and stigma of mental illness. We ask that you would watch over those who live on the street, without the medication they so desperately need. We pray that you would hold accountable those systems that have let these precious children of yours down, that have left them destitute. We pray for those who are in positions of power—that, as they make policies and work to improve existing structures of care, they would faithfully and carefully consider the welfare of those who struggle with mental illness. We pray that you would prevent us from putting distance between ourselves and those struggling with mental illness. That you would grow in us the love we need to take action, and to make their struggle our own.

Comfort those who live with the darkness of depression. May we be a light in the darkness for them. Teach us to avoid false cheerfulness, and instead give us wisdom to know how to help our friends and family who struggle in this way to come up for air. To see, again, your goodness. Lord, watch over those who are, even now, contemplating suicide. Stop their hands. Send someone to intervene.

Guard our tongues from unthinking and unkind words that contribute to feelings of worthlessness. Empower us to use our words, instead, to speak for those who cannot. To proclaim your worth over those our culture denigrates. To defend the powerless, and stop others from contributing to the stigma that mental illness so often carries.

Bring the comfort only you can bring to those who have lost a loved one to mental illness. And use us to bring comfort. May we, your church, be a healing presence, a safe community, a strong advocate for the mentally ill.

Thank you for the assurance that you do not let go. That you are always with us. May we in turn extend that hope to every person we encounter.

Amen.