Prayer: A glimmer of hope

Lord, teach us how to pray, and help us to pray now.

We pray for the people of Ukraine. We ask for safety, and an end to the war. We ask that people would be able to return to their homes. We pray for Western leaders and the Russian leadership: please give them cool heads. Give the world a way to step back, and prevent Russian leadership from feeling the need to make an aggressive move for tomorrow’s victory day parade.

We grieve for the people of Ethiopia who have been killed in the civil war. Lord, have mercy on the people of Tigray, who have been blockaded by government forces. We thank you for the small amount of supplies that have been able to get into Tigray since April, and we ask for more: enough for everyone. We ask that the UN investigation will be successful and bring justice for the ethnic massacres that have taken place. Please frustrate the efforts of government-backed militias to destroy the evidence. It’s hard to hope for, but we pray for some kind of path towards peace and safety for the people of Ethiopia.

This week we heard that the Amazon rainforest is being illegally cut down faster then ever before. This is a shock even though we are used to hearing things like that. We pray for change to the economic and political forces that are behind this, and for helpful steps from our own government. We acknowledge our own responsibility in the climate emergency, and our ancestors’ responsibility, and we ask for hope that our whole world can find ways to reduce the impact of this disaster. We pray for the Amazon: Lord will you save this place of beauty and richness of life on which we all depend?

Our church is embarking on a season of evangelism, focussing on sharing the good news. I have often wondered what good news we have to offer when our religion has been at the heart of empires and colonies that have abused people and exhausted resources; when it has been a power structure that enabled abuse of vulnerable people by trusted leaders.

Maybe still, we can share a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, the universe is not indifferent, and you are a person, and you are good?

Or that there was a person who modelled how to be powerful by surrendering and taking on suffering to become a peacemaker?

Or even the idea that those two people are the same person, and that this surrender is at the heart of the one who made the universe?

A person who made our hearts to be like theirs?

Lord, we don’t presume to think that you speak to us and no-one else. Give us the humility to open ourselves to hear from the people we might mistakenly call “outside” about what you are doing in their lives. To learn from them.

We admit that we are as confused as anyone about who you are, and what you are doing. We look forward to how we can grow, as we are surprised by how vast your compassion is. We do not look to fit people (including ourselves) to some human pattern mixed up with class or race or conformity. We look to learn about you from your children.

We see that there is hope in loving and caring for people, and offer our love and care to people before you not as a recruiting tool, but as a simple gift. We also admit that we fail to become a family if we don’t expect and receive love and care from the same people, not seeing them as cases to be solved, but fellow-workers.

We even admit that showing love to someone will sometimes include trying to describe that glimmer of hope.

We know living all this out is hard and involves breaking existing patterns of thought and behaviour, and we ask for your forgiveness for our mistakes, and your help in learning how to do it.

We pray for our friends and family who are unwell: for those who have long covid, we ask for progress in medical research, and healing. For those who are suffering pain, we ask for relief and recovery. For those with life-threatening or life-ending disease we ask for peace and healing, and for good relations with family and friends. Please show us who needs helping and give us the courage to respond.

Prayer: addicted to our dishonest scales

Lord, teach us how to pray, and help us to pray now.

The words of Micah 6 are hard to hear.

I walk past two people sleeping in the walkway by Waitrose and I try not to
think about what part I have to play in the cause. Who removed them
from the place they were staying?

We hide our eyes from the violence we participate in.

I hear about people in Afghanistan who are being rounded up, or just don’t
have enough to eat, and I don’t stop to wonder what makes those people worth
less than me.

We are so addicted to our dishonest scales that we can’t imagine how
to run our world a different way.

I see our world being destroyed, what we store up not being enough, as deserts
take over forests and farmland, and I don’t ask what sins are ruining us.

We beg you to be allowed a harvest. We beg for the empty stomachs to be filled.
We confess the sin that puts us in this position, and we confess our total
lack of vision for how to repent. Give us new vision.

We think we know you don’t give up on us. We want to believe you won’t
leave us without hope. We try to trust that you are still here, still involved,
still see value in each of us, even when we face up to our sin.

Lord, surround us with your love. We pray for the people we know who are sick,
and mourning for people who have died. We pray for everyone who is isolated
right now, including many of us here today. We ask you to help us move closer
together after being separated for the last couple of years: where we have
forgotten, teach us how to encourage each other, help each other, challenge
each other.

Lord, if we’re going to face this sin and learn how to repent, we need to do
it together.

The fact that you’re still here, still saying this to us, thousands of years
after you said it to Israel helps us believe you won’t give up on us, helps
us understand we’re not the first and we won’t be the last, helps us trust
we’re not lost and you can still save.

We want to turn around, but we still don’t know how. We’re running out of time
and we’re lost without you.

Prayer for Remembrance Day: how can you stand to watch?

Lord, teach us how to pray, and help us to pray now.

We’re together today to honour and thank you for the courage and sacrifice of people who put their lives on the line to protect us. We pray for the families mourning the loss of their precious children and parents, friends and family members. We pray for the families coping with injury and pain.

In the year the UK pulled its forces out of Afghanistan, it has been particularly difficult to see meaning in any of this. We pray for families trying to make sense of their loss, while they watch what can look like a tragic cycle of endless violence dragging on unchanged.

Lord, how can you stand to watch us killing each other again, with high-sounding words, again? How can we stand to watch as the people of Afghanistan run out of food, 23 million people without enough to eat this winter? We pray for Afghan people mourning for the loss of their children, parents, friends and family members killed in this war. We pray for a solution that will allow basic provisions to be brought to people. Many of us are at a loss about what we should do, but we ask for your help, and we want to help if we can.

We pray for the people of Syria. After 10 years of war, the vast majority of people in Syria are living in poverty. The war has left no resources available to fight COVID-19, which has swept across the country, killing vast numbers of children and adults whose immune systems are weakened by malnutrition, and who have had no chance of getting a vaccine.

God, how can you stand by and allow such suffering? How can we stand by and watch people escape this terrifying situation, taking terrible risks to get to a safe country and then allow them to drown in our own sea?

We pray for an end to wars like these. We pray for the courage of the young people we have lost to mean something because we stopped doing this to each other.

We pray for the people who have been negotiating to save humanity from extinction in the climate talks in Glasgow. Maybe we’ve given up hope in those people, but they are currently all we’ve got: please give our leaders courage and inspiration for fast and radical change.

Have you given up on us, Lord? Not for the first time in history, we look to you to give us hope in the face of overwhelming odds. Show us as individuals how we can be part of real change.

We pray for the people working in our health services and care services. After two years of emergency mode, with winter crunch merging into COVID treatment and safety measures, many people are beyond their limits, having worked extreme hours and taken on extra responsibilities, and working with patients who have had cruelly long waits for treatment.

We thank you for their work and their sacrifice, and we ask for relief: we pray for the threat of COVID to reduce, we pray for money and people to do the work, and we ask for good management that acknowledges the pressure that is burning so many people out. We pray that people in need of treatment will get it.

So there’s our list of requests for you today, God. While we honour those we have lost, and commit to care for those who remain, will you help us reject selfishness and work in unity for peace and safety for everyone?

Prayer: we offer ourselves

Lord, teach us how to pray, and help us to pray now.

We bring before you the people we know who are unwell or in distress. Please heal them and comfort them. Please provide people with skill, compassion and friendship to help them. We offer ourselves to help.

Lord, hear our prayers for these people, and help us to follow through on offering ourselves to them and to you.

We pray for people in our town and our country who are struggling to feed themselves and their family. We pray with Marcus Rashford that everyone who needs the Heathly Start scheme vouchers will be aware of them, and get hold of them. We pray that no-one will go hungry, and no-one will be without a safe place to sleep. We offer ourselves for the people who are in need. Are we really brave enough to pray that? Lord, would you make this next sentence true? “We offer ourselves for the people who are in need.”

We acknowledge the change that is needed in us for this to be true, and we ask you to make that change.

We pray about the pandemic, both locally and globally. Where it’s sensible to do so, we pray for the courage to do the things we used to do without thinking, and the sensitivity to allow everyone to go at their own pace. We pray for the people in authority here: please give them good advice, good decision-making, and courage.

Where the virus continues to kill thousands of people every day, we pray for mercy. We pray for rich countries to share vaccines with poorer countries.
Maybe we’re not sure how you will use us, but we offer ourselves to you.

We pray for Afghanistan, where thousands of civilians have been killed and hundreds of thousands have had to run away from their homes in the fighting. We pray for everyone who is grieving, and every family searching for a safe home, living in camps or travelling, while most of the country is suffering a serious drought. Please bring an end to the fighting, and allow all the people of Afghanistan to live in safety and freedom, with stable and good government.

We pray for Christians in Afghanistan, who are often excluded from society or killed by their families. We ask for protection, and help for those who need to keep their faith secret. We pray for change anywhere the culture considers being a Christian an offence, or a sign of mental illness.

We bring the people of Afghanistan to you. We offer ourselves to you, most of us probably not clear what we can do to help, but offering ourselves nonetheless.

Lord, when we see devastating events happening all around the world caused by climate change, we are torn between trying to summon up the concern that is appropriate for a humanity-destroying threat, and trying to ignore the situation just to be able to keep going in the face of it.

We are overwhelmed: it’s already too late to prevent the climate emergency.

We feel useless: the power sits in the hands of a few people who have their hands over their ears.

We offer ourselves to you, whether that means giving up the illusion of control, or fighting with everything we’ve got, or both. This makes a joke of our sense of entitlement or power over the world: we give ourselves up to you, because there is nothing else we can do. We give ourselves up to you, because that was always what we needed to do.

Prayer: our sin holds us here

Lord, teach us how to pray, and help us to pray now.

We bring before you now our fellow-people in Palestine and Israel. Ordinary people lying in their beds waiting for a bomb to drop on their house. Parents wondering whether their children will be killed on the way to school. Deep inequalities leaving people desperate. This has been going on so long it’s hard to believe it will change. We don’t know how miracles work, Lord, but if there’s a limited supply, can’t you use some in Israel and Palestine? Please bring new ideas, forgiveness, solidarity.

Our sin holds us here in this hatred and revenge. Give us freedom from our sin.

We ask for your help with the climate emergency. We pray that governments and companies would work together not to do the minimum, but to start a rescue plan, to make our best attempt at avoiding the devastation of the human race. We pray for world leadership by our government while it runs the G7 this year.

Some of us are already starving or migrating because of climate change, while some of us are unlikely to see its effects in our lifetimes.

Our sin holds us here in the blindness caused by greed. Give us freedom from our sin. Give us obedience to you.

Some of us are starting to feel safe from COVID, while some of us are being torn apart by it. We pray for the people of Nepal and India and other places where COVID infections are very high. We pray for protection for health workers. We pray for people whose family and friends have died. We pray for medical supplies from countries like ours with the resources to provide them. We pray for the COVAX scheme – we ask for effective sharing of vaccines, tests and treatment. We ask for this pandemic to end, and we acknowledge that that won’t happen if we just deal with it here: we need to work together globally.

Our sin holds us here in this self-centred naivety. Give us freedom from our sin. Give us love for you.

Some of us have our pick of jobs, while others, some of whom we heard from in Hartlepool this week, can’t find work, and have no hope of doing so.

Some of us live in safe homes, while others continue to live with the daily worry that the fire in Grenfell Tower might be what happens to them, with the same cladding on their home, and the same lack of attention from the authorities.

Some of us are surrounded by people, while others are isolated.

Right here in our town, some of us have good places to live, while others have nowhere.

Our sin holds us here. Teach us the mystery of how to love you and be obedient to you. Give us the freedom you promised.

Right here in our church, some of us have easy relationships with family, while others live with the fallout of our own and others’ mistakes, or grieve for people we loved but couldn’t live with. Give us the friendship to support each other, to love you by loving each other, to forgive, to escape, to belong.

In this church, who do we allow to stand up here and speak? Does my face, my voice, my school, fit, while others are expected to be quiet and listen, or not welcome to walk through the door? If I say something stupid at the front of church, how many people will email the vicar questioning my calling? How about if I looked different?

Our sin holds us here. The good that we want to do, we don’t do. The people who share our lives, we have ignored.

Teach us how to love you with our whole hearts.

We look forward with excitement, and also nervousness, to being allowed to be together with each other in our homes and other places. We look forward to going to school without the irritation and separation of wearing masks in class. We hope that loads more people, especially people in care homes, will get to see their families. We pray for joyful reunions. Help us be gentle with each other in the next few weeks. Change is weird. Let us work out together how to do this, each at our own pace.

As we begin to explore our new freedom, show us the freedom you have promised. Freedom from our sin, and release from where it holds us.

Teach us how to love you with our whole hearts.

Prayer: God our mother

Lord, teach us how to pray, and help us to pray now.

God our mother, fight for us

Fight for our fellow people in Yemen. So many people are starving and grieving and under threat every day. Dealing with our own crisis, the UK has drastically cut the funding it is providing. Could this be the wrong decision? If so, we pray for it to be reversed.
Fight for our fellow people in Ethiopia. We grieve for the hundreds of people massacred by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces in Axum, and for everyone affected by the atrocities committed by both sides. We cry out for truth to be told, and to be clear, when we see lies everywhere.
We acknowledge the truth that the people of Yemen, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Mozambique and everywhere are your beautiful children, worthy of love and safety and protection. Fight for us.

God our mother, provide for us

We thank you for the return to school, and pray that the timing is right. We thank you that some people have been able to visit their precious loved ones in care homes. Please let that be safe, and able to continue. We pray for healing of damaged minds and relationships caused by separation and isolation.
We would love it, God our mother, if there were no more COVID waves, and we could see and embrace each other from now on.
We thank you for so many vaccinations. We pray for safe and effective vaccination to continue here, and to be available all across the world. We thank you for the work of UNICEF and others to try and achieve that, and we pray for the money, and politics, needed to get vaccinations to everyone.

God our mother, defend us

Defend us against being overwhelmed by grief. Provide us friends and a way to be with them.
Defend us against being paralysed by fear. Focus our minds on your love, and what you are doing. Give us the help we need at the hardest times.
Defend us against exhaustion. We can’t live on bread alone – give us rest and companionship.
Defend us against loneliness. Unlock our minds, and provide friends.
Defend us against sickness. Give us mercy.

Prompt us to help in your work: give us the courage and imagination to see what you are doing. Let us join you in the defence.

God our mother, teach us

As the prospect of being allowed to do more becomes more real, we face the question “what am I supposed to do?” For people who have been stuck unable to do anything, as well as those whose work has been occupying all available time, we have been exposed by the COVID crisis for thinking “I am what I do.”
What are we? Are we machines for doing good, whose works have been jammed by a stubborn spanner? Or can we see something different in ourselves? Are we intricate creations, made and treasured by you? Are we little parts of this amazing humanity you have made? Are we animals who bumble around participating in an overwhelmingly beautiful process of creation and destruction, of death and new life?

If we were all these things, how would it affect what we do? Or is that the wrong question?
We cry when we are sad, and we dance when we are happy, and we laugh when we don’t know what we are. Can we rest in your strong arms?

God our mother, we are yours.

Prayer: we don’t want to be lonely survivors of a new great war

Lord, teach us how to pray, and help us to pray now.

We thank you for the courage and sacrifice of so many people who have risked everything, given everything for our safety. We pray for all the people involved in war today. We ask for protection over their bodies and minds, and their behaviour. We pray that the soldiers would be able to go home, that the survivors could get back to their houses, that we would have peace. For people who are injured, we pray for healing and release from pain. For people whose family and friends have been killed, please lead them through their grief, keeping close to them.

Lord, we look back at the terrible, stupid mistakes of the past and almost despair. We are sorry for the wars, for the genocides. We are sorry for what allowed these things to happen: for the hateful words, for treating people as non-people, for the creep of escalating violence.

We look at all this and accept that these are things that we did. We cry with you for the lost.

Last century unthinkable suffering did come to us. We are scared of what could come to us this century. Will you allow drought, starvation and war because of climate change to overwhelm us? We beg you for mercy. Like always, it is our terrible, stupid mistakes that are walking us into hell. Will you make a path for us to escape?

We know you give us gifts that we don’t deserve.

Prayed at my church on Remembrance day, 2020-11-08.

We also know we don’t control you, and that sometimes dreadful things do happen.

We plead for ourselves and our children: save us.

Give us the ability to work together to make enough from limited resources. Provide water and food. Help us to share. Prevent us wasting what we have on crushing each other to scramble to the front of the queue.

We pray for release from this pandemic. We pray for an end to the wars that are happening now. We pray against the future wars we fear. We pray against the idea that we need someone to blame.

We ask that we will learn to love our enemies, and work with them against the common threats of diminishing land, food and water. We ask that we will use our ingenuity and industry to build the tools of peace.

We don’t want to be lonely survivors of a devastating great war: we want to be part of a generation that loved our enemies and prayed for the people hurting us, and overcame hate to survive together.

We have no chance without your help. Please help.

Prayer: We’ve built our houses on sand

Lord, teach us how to pray, and help us to pray now.

We pray that the COVID-19 pandemic would slow down and stop. We ask for effective treatments and vaccines to be developed. We pray for good judgement and compassion in leaders across the world. Please help the people in countries where infections are increasing rapidly, including Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, the US, Brazil and India, and places where the numbers are not being released. We especially pray for people who have lost their income during this crisis. Give us the generosity and the vision to face economic hardship together, not hoarding what we have but responding to everyone’s needs, understanding that soon enough the helper will need help themselves.

COVID helps us understand our vulnerability, and with large parts of the world on fire, reports saying wildlife is in catastrophic decline, and a creeping realisation that democracies may not be as stable, and elections may not be as trustworthy as we thought, maybe it feels like the rug has been pulled out from under us.

We’ve built our houses on sand.

We turn to you God, even though we might not know who you are. Please be the person we can trust. Please guide us in our response to climate change, to mass extinction, to bitter political division and corruption. We don’t opt out of our society: we will enter fully in to our society with a new understanding that we are all capable of great evil and great good, and our collective behaviour matters, and we need you to guide us.

As restrictions tighten here, and fears about Brexit re-emerge, we are tempted again to look inwards, and look after our own people. Give us the generosity and the vision to face economic hardship together, not hoarding what we have but responding to everyone’s needs, understanding that soon enough the helper will need help themselves.

We pray for people needing medical treatment now. We ask for safety, and the ability for treatment to continue. We pray for people in pain or fearing the consequences of delays. We pray for everyone involved in our health service: for rest, for health, for compassion.

We pray for people who are running away from trouble today: in a boat, in a camp, in a hostel. Give them mercy.

We know that we owe each other respect, and care for each others’ health. We pray that we will put aside selfish behaviour that puts other people at risk.

But beyond what we owe each other: what gift can we give each other?

We pray that you would show us to how stop pretending to be fine. That church wouldn’t be the “everything’s OK” club, with the occasional crisis that needs righting before we’re back to being fine. We pray that you would teach us to share the things that are not fine, and not fixed by next week. Give us the ability to be generous with our own selves, and risk a bit of reality with each other. We know that this is hard, and not something that we can turn on like a tap, but we pray for you to teach us, because we know that by turning to each other, we are also turning to you, and we want to know you.

Prayer: Streams of tears flow from my eyes

Lord, teach us how to pray, and help us to pray now.

The prayers today will be interspersed with readings from Lamentations 3.

Streams of tears flow from my eyes
because my people are destroyed.
My eyes will flow unceasingly,
without relief,
until the Lord looks down
from heaven and sees.

Lord, our enemies are gathered against us:

  • injustice rules our kingdom: the statistics in every area of life show that racial prejudice stacks the odds against some people and towards others.
  • we oppress the peoples of the world: we exploit low-paid and unsafe labour to make our food and goods.
  • the extinction of our species crouches at the door: many people think it’s already too late to prevent the destruction of a habitat capable of supporting human life.

To crush underfoot
all prisoners in the land,
to deny people their rights
before the Most High,
to deprive them of justice—
would not the Lord see such things?

We are sorry for our collective stupidity:

  • “I don’t see colour”
  • “I’m not rich: just able to get by”
  • “My contribution to the climate crisis can’t make a difference”

You have covered yourself with anger and pursued us;
you have slain without pity.
You have covered yourself with a cloud
so that no prayer can get through.
You have made us scum and refuse
among the nations.

We are sorry for our deliberate blindness.

  • “I can’t give up my career for some kind of political correctness”
  • “If wages were fairer would I have less?”
  • “I’m just too busy to think about the environment all the time”

He has broken my teeth with gravel;
he has trampled me in the dust.
I have been deprived of peace;
I have forgotten what prosperity is.
So I say, “My splendour is gone
and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”

We are sorry for our self-centredness and individualism.

  • Thinking if I’m not racist there can’t be a problem.
  • Thinking that I don’t oppress people so it’s not my responsibility.
  • Thinking the solution is me doing some recycling and refusing to think about the whole system.

We have refused to acknowledge our collective destiny and our need to act together.

I called on your name, Lord,
from the depths of the pit.
You heard my plea: “Do not close your ears
to my cry for relief.”
You came near when I called you,
and you said, “Do not fear.”

We pray for racial justice.

We pray for wealth justice.

We pray for climate rescue.

We pray that you will save us from a destruction that we are bringing on ourselves.

Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

Amen

Prayer: Racism; warrior god in a brutal world

Lord, teach us how to pray, and help us to pray now.

Lord, we have been reminded recently of what a brutal world you have put us in:
a world where children are kept away from their parents’ funeral by a virus,
where abusers are locked in a house with their victims,
where the rich cower in their homes while the poor work for them,
where the phrase “Black Lives Matter” is not some stupid obvious statement but a radical call for change,
where some people are just alone,
where some people just plain starve to death.

Maybe we start to understand the image of you as a warrior god: there is so much to fight.

We pray for people hurt by racism in our society: for those mourning for their dead, for people deeply hurt by insults and assumptions. We pray for those denied access to university, for people who hit a glass ceiling in their careers. Bring change.

We pray for the racists: the violent, the insulters and the powerful quiet suppressors. We ask for miracles in them, for the pain and fear driving their hate to be relieved and for true healing. Work deep at the root. Bring change.

We pray for the quiet majority, who let this all pass by as if they are not involved, whose own quiet biases and assumptions shape their actions. Bring change.

We pray for the leaders in the US at this time. Give them wisdom and compassion beyond what we would ever expect. Bring change, and bring peace through that change.

For ourselves, we thank you for the great work of our church people helping people in need at the moment: delivering prescriptions, spending time on the phone with people who could do with a friend, and many other things. Please provide energy for everyone doing this work, and opportunities to help people who we haven’t found yet. Please give us life-long friendships from this work. Please keep the vulnerable safe while this work goes on and prevent us from spreading infection.

We pray for the people living without a home at such a difficult time. We ask for health, and access to healthcare. We pray that they would be able to use toilets and showers. We pray against the things keeping them from having a home, and we ask that they would have somewhere to live. Please show us, as individuals or as a church, how we can help make homelessness in our town a thing of the past. Bring change.

We think we might be learning more during this crisis about what you want us to be. Is it possible we could be the place where people who were unwanted are welcome? Could we become people capable of that generosity? Can we love the waifs and strays thrown away as if they were rubbish? Lord, we need a lot of work done in us to do it. We need a lot of fear overcome. Bring change.

Warrior god who returns from battle covered in your own blood: bring change in us.

Warrior God who fought your battle by standing still while the oppressors murdered you: bring change in us.

Warrior God who showed us that doing that somehow won the battle: bring change in us.