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.

Prayer: COVID-19; we trust that there is life

Lord, teach us how to pray, and help us to pray now.
The world situation with coronavirus is utterly overwhelming. So many people dying, and grieving for people who have died. So many people frightened for their lives. So many people whose income has been cut off and don’t know how they will feed themselves and their families.

We pray for the virus to fade away much more quickly than it might. We pray for people and places where there is not enough money or organisation to be able to help everyone. We pray that our own country would be able to cope ourselves, and be able and willing to help countries that are struggling. We pray for unprecedented co-operation and solidarity between everyone in the world. Please protect us from allowing our own fear and insecurity to overrule our compassion for others.

We pray for everyone who is in hospital now, including Boris Johnson, and people we know personally. Please heal them and be close to them. Please give skill and energy to everyone caring for them. Please help their families and friends to cope, and allow them to support each other despite the social distancing restrictions.

We pray for our government: please help the civil servants to provide stable and insightful advice. Give ministers clear minds to make good decisions. We especially pray for the decisions made while Boris Johnson is unwell: we pray for clarity about who is making decisions and unity among senior ministers. Let all of our government be able to lift their heads from the day-to-day panic, to make decisions that are right for the longer term, and for the whole world.

We thank you so much for the key people who are helping us to survive at this time. Thank you for farmers and food production workers, for postal workers, delivery drivers and warehouse staff, for people serving in shops and cleaning them. We thank you for hospital admin staff and managers, for doctors, nurses and healthcare assistants. We all need these people (and all the people I missed from the list), literally, to survive: please keep them safe. Please help us to remember how much we value them when this crisis is over. We thank you for their courage, their skill and their compassion.

We pray for our siblings around the world who are grieving for people who have died. Please comfort them and give them help from people, despite restrictions on movement.

We pray for people stuck in home situations that are dangerous, or unhappy, or desperately lonely. Please help us to be aware of people we could help in any of those sitations. For everyone like this, please wake up someone near them to their need, and give opportunities to help.

We pray for ourselves.
Some of us are full of activity and risk and decisions.
Give us rest and safety.
Some of us are trapped and hemmed in on all sides.
Give us time and peace.
Some of us are alone and lonely.
Give us friendship.
Some of us are closing down, turning inward.
Give us ways to help and be helped.

All that is happening around the world is an unprecedented action designed to save lives, and that’s so good. Maybe we humans have learned a little bit about the value of people.

Today on Easter Sunday we remember what you did to save our lives, and we remember that our lives are more than just biological processes fighting it out. We read the story that Jesus came back to life, overthrowing death, and even as we have no way to understand it, we are trying to trust it.
We trust you that there is life, that we humans can be saved.

Give us the ability to look beyond our lives, beyond our deaths, and to trust you for it all.

We are in your hands.

We are in your hands.

Amen

Prayer: playgroup, Sri Lanka, religious tolerance

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

We thank you for the way the church playgroup spreads the good news of your love to so many people who don’t get to hear it in other places. We thank you so much for answering our prayers as a church to provide opportunities to tell people about you through this group. We thank you for the many people who have recently come forward to help with the playgroup, and we ask you to prompt those you want to step forward now. We ask you to help the leaders find a way to fit in a time of prayer and welcoming new leaders before each session, despite all the other calls on their time at that moment. We pray for the church playgroup cream tea afternoon a week on Friday. We pray that we would be able to make the most of the opportunity you provide us through the playgroup. We ask you to prompt more church families with kids to be part of it so that it can be more effective in spreading the word about you. If there are social or practical issues making this difficult, we pray that you would solve them, so that this group can be as effective as possible at telling people about you.

As we take a moment of silence, please show us if you want us to be involved with church playgroup.

We also thank you for the many students who are part of our family here. As they set off home for the summer holidays we want to say thank you for the energy, vibrancy and practical love they provide in our church. Whether we are saying goodbye for good, or just for the summer, we want to thank you for them, and ask you to guide every step they take in the future. Please encourage and strengthen those of us here who work with students, and move this work on from strength to strength next year.

As we take a moment of silence, please show us if you want us do something for one of our students.

We pray for Sri Lanka. After 30 years of civil war, we ask for peace. After thousands of deaths, we ask for a new life together. After division and hate, we ask for unity and love.

We are aware that what we ask looks difficult or even impossible. We know that the only hope for such a miracle is through your love. We pray for your love to flow into Sri Lanka through its Christians. Under 10% of Sri Lankans are Christians, but Christianity offers hope because it is the only faith there that embraces both Sinhalese and Tamil people.

We pray for the 2 Anglican Bishops of Sri Lanka as they work with the Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim leaders and the politicians in the work of rebuilding destroyed areas. Much of their work at the moment involves caring for displaced Tamil people. We know that they need water, bedding, medicines and other physical help, and we pray they will get it. We also pray they they will be known for their total integrity. We pray that your Holy Spirit will work powerfully to make them successful in their work of caring, and in their wider task of working towards forgiveness and reconciliation. Lord, we pray that you would break the cycle of hatred and violence. We pray that parents would teach their children forgiveness.

As we take a moment of silence, please show us if you want us to do anything to help the people of Sri Lanka.

We pray for the work President Obama has started in attempting to bring reconciliation between Muslims and The West. We pray for determination and focus on this task even when domestic issues make heavy demands on his administration’s time. We pray for success – for peace and stability in the Middle East, and love and understanding between Christians and Muslims.

It sounds crazy even to pray for such things, but we know all things are possible with you. We ask you to work through Christians in high places and low to bring about your will. We ask you to show yourself through their actions. We ask that the countries that are called Christian would bring glory to your name through their actions and words.

As we take a moment of silence, please show us if you want us to do anything to show your love to people from a different culture or religion.

[Prayed at my church on 2009-06-07.]

Prayer: Sometimes I am busy being wrapped up in myself

I’m hoping to lead us today in a prayer of repentance. I’m going to pray it for myself, and I would ask you to pray with me where you feel it’s right to do so.

Let’s pray.

Lord, I am sorry for the times I have missed an opportunity to welcome someone to our church. Sometimes I am busy being wrapped up in myself, and sometimes I just don’t want to get over the social awkwardness. Starting today I will stop expecting someone else to do it and try to be part of a welcoming church. Please help me.

I am sorry too for the times I have missed someone in church’s need for help or comfort. Starting today I will be looking to help my brothers and sisters in this church in any way I can. Please show me how.

I am sorry for the judgements I have made about people in this church based on how they look or speak, or on what someone else has said. Starting today I will try to remember your passionate love for every person in this room, and show that love myself, expecting exciting and real relationships with the people here. Please stop me when I slip into wrong thoughts.

I am sorry for the ways I have turned against people in our church because of something real or perceived that they have done against me. Starting today I will remember the forgiveness you have given to me, and begin to forgive other people, with your help. Please show me who I need to forgive, and help me do it.

Lord, we as a church are sorry for the times when we have relied on our own strength. You have given us people with such gifts and talents – it is easy to think we can achieve your objectives for us if we just set our minds to it. In reality we can’t make a single step without total reliance on you. Starting today we will try to plan in total humility, never assuming we can do it ourselves. We need your help to do this – it is frightening to trust you – please teach us.

[Prayed at my church on 2009-02-15.]

Prayer for Zimbabwe, Nigeria, USA, DR Congo and ourselves in hard economic times

Lord please teach us how to pray. Please hear our prayers and respond in ways we can’t ignore. We ask you to change us.

We pray for the people of Zimbabwe. We ask that the cholera epidemic would be brought under control, and that you would guide and protect the people working to fight it. We pray for good government: we ask you to put trustworthy and wise leaders in place and guide them. We take this moment to pray for hope in Zimbabwe. Lord, please let us know if you want us to act to help this situation.

We pray for the people of Nigeria. We ask that the fighting between Christians and Muslims in Jos would end, and we pray that those who are harmed would show restraint and forgiveness in their response. We pray that the Christians involved in the situation would bring glory to you by the way they act. We ask that Christians and Muslims in the whole of the country would find a way to live together peacefully. We take this moment to pray for hope in Nigeria. Lord, please let us know if you want us to act to help this situation.

We pray for the people of the USA. We ask that your name would be glorified there. We pray for Barak Obama as he prepares to run the country. Please give him true wisdom, and guide and direct him. We pray that he would lead the world on a path of peace and reconciliation. We pray especially for the relationship between the West and the Muslim world, and ask that it would improve, and people would know that reconciliation comes from you. We take this moment to pray for hope in the USA. Please speak to us if you want us to take action.

Lord, it is hard to listen when we hear news from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It seems hopeless – how can people ever live peacefully after suffering the unspeakable violations that have happened and are still happening? Lord, we pray that you would put an end to it. We pray for safety for the people of Goma, and all the people escaping the fighting into Uganda and other places. We long for the day when the government is on your shoulders. We take this moment to pray for hope in Congo. Prince of Peace, let your will be done there. Please let us know if you want us to act to help this situation.

We pray for ourselves. Some of us may lose our jobs or income in the recession that is coming, and many of us are worried about what will happen to us. We take this opportunity to say that we trust you, and we will follow wherever you take us. We pray that you would provide for our needs, and we offer our lives as sacrifices to you. Please use us to tell people about the amazing hope there is when we follow you. Let’s take this moment to offer ourselves to God. Lord, show us what you want us to do.

[Prayed at my church on 2008-12-04.]

Prayer for Zimbabwe & DR Congo, marriage breakdown, church unity on difficult issues

Father, please teach us how to pray now, and throughout our lives. Please change us.

We pray for Zimbabwe. Please provide a peaceful and just outcome to the situation, providing safety, forgiveness and reconciliation between those who are divided, and a good and stable government. Lord, we know that Mugabe’s challenge that only you will remove him is child’s play to you. If it is your will, please take up that challenge. In the quiet we pray for Zimbabwe and ask you to show us if you want us to help.

We ask you Lord to provide help for those whose relationships are in trouble. Whether it’s with a husband or wife, parent or child, brother or sister, friend or family member, we pray for conviction about the need for healing. We ask that whenever they feel they have run dry you would provide new supplies of compassion, forgiveness and sacrifice. Please provide courage to try to repair these relationships, and hope that you can do it. Bring about reconciliation in these broken and damaged relationships, and provide the right people to help those in our church who are in this situation. In the quiet please show us which relationships we need to work on, and show us if our friends need help.

We pray for the people in our church and town who are lonely. We ask that those who don’t know you would get to know you and find friendship with you. We ask that you would provide people to be friends with everyone who is lonely. In the quiet we pray for lonely people, and ask that you would open our eyes to those around us who are in need of a friend.

We put in your hands the plans we are discussing for expanding our church buildings. We pray that our ambition to become a house of prayer would be fulfilled, and that through spending time with you we would hear from you about what we should do. Please never let us go the wrong way, but turn us back when we make mistakes. Please use us to bring people to you. In the quiet we ask for guidance for the future of our church.

Lord, we want to ask for your help in the disagreements going on in the Anglican church at the moment. We pray that the church will be united in choosing the right way forward on the issues of women in leadership and homosexuality. We especially pray for ourselves, and everyone involved in the debate, that your name would be glorified through our actions and words. Please show the good news of your love through us, even when we disagree. In the quiet we re-dedicate ourselves to demonstrating your love, and ask for unity among Christians.

Lord, we pray for those who are suffering mutilation, murder and rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We beg you to rescue them. We pray with them, using Psalm 13:

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me for ever? How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
my enemy will say, I have overcome him, and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.

In the quiet we urge you to act, and ask you to speak to us about how we can help the people of the Congo.

[Prayed at my church on 2008-07-13.]

Prayer of repentance as a church, individuals and a country

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

Lord, we think you may be telling us as a church that we need to repent: to turn away from wrong things we are doing.

Some of us here may have a very clear idea of things we personally are doing wrong that we need to turn away from. For those of us who are trapped in habitual sins, or in cycles of harming someone else, or in harmful patterns of thought towards others, we pray that you would make repentance possible. Through that repentance we ask you to bring about real change and healing in our lives.

Some of us may not be clear about what sin we need to turn away from, either as individuals or as a church. We pray that you would reveal to us where we need to change. Particularly as a church, we ask that if this idea we have that you may be asking us to repent is right then please show us very clearly what we have been doing wrong, and give us the courage to speak about it, and to turn away from it.

In all this we know we need to trust in you with all our hearts, and not lean on our own understanding. Please cut through our rationalisations and excuses and reveal to us what is important to you.

Let’s take a moment to ask God to help us turn away from wrong things we are doing.

Lord Jesus, we are painfully aware of how far we fall short of your perfect plans for our lives. We throw ourselves on your mercy, and we take comfort in the promise that you speak to the Father in our defence. As we realise the depth of forgiveness we are asking from you, we see the need to forgive others in response.

Some of us here may need to forgive people who have hurt us. Some of us may need to forgive things that seem unforgiveable. Some of us may be caught in deep cycles of not forgiving. Some of us may be fooling ourselves that there is nothing to forgive. In each of those cases we are aware that without your help we can’t begin to forgive. Be generous with your help, Lord – what we ask is impossible, yet you can do it.

As a church, we also may need to forgive. Within the church there may be hurts or grudges we need to give up. We may need to forgive those who attack or scorn us for being Christians. Please help us to trust you to deliver justice for wrongs against you and us, and to follow your example of answering hate with love.

Let’s take a moment to ask God to help us forgive.

Lord, not only as individuals, but also as a country, we have sinned against you. We are sorry for the indifferent and the malicious hurts we have inflicted on countries and people. We turn away from this sin, and we determine, with your help, to try to be part of honouring you as a country. We want the UK to set an example in generosity, loving action, and peace-making. We want to bring glory to your name.

We also see the need for our nation to forgive those who have harmed us. Whether through war, terrorism, scorn or propaganda, we ask for your help in forgiving our enemies. May we demonstrate your character by loving those who hurt us.

Let’s take a moment to pray for our country.

[Prayed at my church on 2008-07-05.]

Prayer for Sri Lanka, love between Christians and other faiths, the church playgroup and students.

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

We thank you for the way our playgroup spreads the good news of your love to so many people who don’t get to hear it in other places. We thank you so much for answering our prayers as a church to provide opportunities to tell people about you through this group. We thank you for the many people who have recently come forward to help with the group, and we ask you to prompt those you want to step forward now. We ask you to help the leaders find a way to fit in a time of prayer and welcoming new leaders before each session, despite all the other calls on their time at that moment. We pray for the cream tea afternoon a week on Friday. We pray that we would be able to make the most of the opportunity you provide us through that playgroup. We ask you to prompt more church families with kids to be part of it so that it can be more effective in spreading the word about you. If there are social or practical issues making this difficult, we pray that you would solve them, so that this group can be as effective as possible at telling people about you.

As we take a moment of silence, please show us if you want us to be involved with our playgroup.

We also thank you for the many students who are part of our family here. As they set off home for the summer holidays we want to say thank you for the energy, vibrancy and practical love they provide in our church. Whether we are saying goodbye for good, or just for the summer, we want to thank you for them, and ask you to guide every step they take in the future. Please encourage and strengthen those of us here who work with students, and move this work on from strength to strength next year.

As we take a moment of silence, please show us if you want us do something for one of our students.

We pray for Sri Lanka. After 30 years of civil war, we ask for peace. After thousands of deaths, we ask for a new life together. After division and hate, we ask for unity and love.

We are aware that what we ask looks difficult or even impossible. We know that the only hope for such a miracle is through your love. We pray for your love to flow into Sri Lanka through its Christians. Under 10% of Sri Lankans are Christians, but Christianity offers hope because it is the only faith there that embraces both Sinhalese and Tamil people. We pray for the 2 Anglican Bishops of Sri Lanka as they work with the Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim leaders and the politicians in the work of rebuilding destroyed areas. Much of their work at the moment involves caring for displaced Tamil people. We know that they need water, bedding, medicines and other physical help, and we pray they will get it. We also pray they they will be known for their total integrity. We pray that your Holy Spirit will work powerfully to make them successful in their work of caring, and in their wider task of working towards forgiveness and reconciliation. Lord, we pray that you would break the cycle of hatred and violence. We pray that parents would teach their children forgiveness.

As we take a moment of silence, please show us if you want us to do anything to help the people of Sri Lanka.

We pray for the work President Obama has started in attempting to bring reconciliation between Muslims and The West. We pray for determination and focus on this task even when domestic issues make heavy demands on his administration’s time. We pray for success – for peace and stability in the Middle East, and love and understanding between Christians and Muslims. It sounds crazy even to pray for such things, but we know all things are possible with you. We ask you to work through Christians in high places and low to bring about your will. We ask you to show yourself through their actions. We ask that the countries that are called Christian would bring glory to your name through their actions and words.

As we take a moment of silence, please show us if you want us to do anything to show your love to people from a different culture or religion.

[Prayed at my church on 2008-06-07]