Lent 2017: Prayers
Last night a few of us got together to pray for refugees (I brought up undocumented immigrants as well, because of course) and it was very good for my soul. I wanted to share a few of the prayers here, as well as some Scriptures we prayed through (thank you Erin, for putting this together!). I did the first part, guiding us through praying/reading Isaiah 58 and starting with repenting and lamenting. It is funny how bad evangelicals are at this. Everyone wants to rush straight to good news--we are sad, but God is in control! Everything is terrible, but it is covered by the blood of Jesus! Yes, yes, I know . . . but can't we just sit in the sadness for a moment? To me, that is what these times require. To sit and feel the lament, at least for a bit.
Sometimes when I am around Christians who use a lot of Christian language I feel lonely. Do they not know their words sound like gibberish to people who have real and present needs now? What does it mean to wait on God when the world is falling apart? What does it mean to evangelize someone when people are dying of starvation? This may seem like a weird tangent to go off on, but it is all connected. It is bringing me to my main point, which is this: the Bible is not a book of Christianese.
We have turned it into such, sadly. Or maybe I just heard bits and pieces of it too much, so they lost their sheen, lost their context--which is a bloody, messy, horrible world full of extremely messed up people who ended up being used by God anyways. As such, the full expression of humanity is on display, constantly. The Bible was written by traumatized people who were trying hard to believe in a good God in a very bad world.
I thought about this, last night. The way I need the Bible so badly. The way it speaks to all the needs of my heart and of my neighbors. It doesn't leave anyone out. It pierces the hearts of those who need it, it comforts those who are oppressed. This is comforting to me. Which is why praying through Scripture has become such a comfort as well. And so:
The action step for the weekend is this: pray.
Take a few moments to thoughtfully meditate on these Scripture passages or creeds or prayers. Keep your suffering brothers and sisters close to you, your neighbors who fear for the ends of their lives and livelihoods due to their immigration status. Better yet, find a ground of people to pray these prayers with!
Prayer of Pope Francis on the beach at Mytilene, Lesbos, 16 April 2016 [Adapted]:
Merciful God, We entrust to you all those who have made this journey, enduring fear, uncertainty and humiliation, in order to reach a place of safety and hope. Just as you never abandoned your Son as he was brought to a safe place by Mary and Joseph, so now be close to these, your sons and daughters, through our tenderness and protection.
In caring for them may we seek a world where none are forced to leave their home and where all can live in freedom, dignity and peace. Merciful God and Father of all, wake us from the slumber of indifference, open our eyes to their suffering, and free us from the insensitivity born of worldly comfort and self centredness.
Inspire us, as nations, communities and individuals, to see that those who come to our shores are our brothers and sisters. May we share with them the blessings we have received from your hand, and recognize that together, as one human family, we are all migrants, journeying in hope to you, our true home, where every tear will be wiped away where we will be at peace and safe in your embrace.
Isaiah 58 English Standard Version (ESV)
“Cry aloud; do not hold back;
lift up your voice like a trumpet;
declare to my people their transgression,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet they seek me daily
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that did righteousness
and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments;
they delight to draw near to God.
‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.
Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the Lord?
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail.
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to dwell in.
“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,
from doing your pleasure on my holy day,
and call the Sabbath a delight
and the holy day of the Lord honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
then you shall take delight in the Lord,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Prayer for Migrant Families
Good and gracious God, we thank you for the gift of families.
We are grateful for all of the joy and love that they bring into our lives, and we ask that you provide special protection for all families, particularly those who face hardships as they move in search of a better life.
Show mercy to those who travel in danger, and lead them to a place of safety and peace. Comfort those who are alone and afraid because their families have been torn apart by violence and injustice.
As we reflect upon the difficult journey that the Holy Family faced as refugees in Egypt, help us to remember the suffering of all migrant families. Through the intercession of Mary our Mother, and St. Joseph the Worker, her spouse, we pray that all migrants may be reunited with their loved ones and find the meaningful work they seek.
Open our hearts so that we may provide hospitality for all who come in search of refuge. Give us the courage to welcome every stranger as Christ in our midst.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.
Psalm 37 (1-6) New Living Translation (NLT)
Don’t worry about the wicked
or envy those who do wrong.
For like grass, they soon fade away.
Like spring flowers, they soon wither.
Trust in the LORD and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the LORD,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the LORD.
Trust him, and he will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
Be still in the presence of the LORD,
and wait patiently for him to act.
Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
or fret about their wicked schemes.
Lord, hear our prayers.