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.

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