Prayers for Rachel

(Prayers of the People, written for the Requiem Eucharist of Rachel Held Evans, June 1, 2019, First-Centenary UMC, Chattanooga, Tennessee)

God, the psalmist cried out to you: “How long, O Lord?” When it comes to our dear Rachel’s beautiful life, many of us now cry out: “Why not longer, O Lord? Why not longer?” This hurts. We can’t make sense of her death. We’re struggling to find words to explain the sadness that smothers our hearts. We feel angry. The tears won’t stop. We are afraid. Many of us don’t even know how to pray anymore. Reassure us that you are the God who meets us wherever we are, the God who holds us in all our messiness. Be with us in our mourning, God, and grant us the freedom that comes from being able to name what weighs down our souls.
Lord, in your mercy… hear our prayers.

God who numbers our days: How exactly are we supposed to we go on? It can’t be like it was before. Show us how to put one foot in front of the other, how to make the next meal, how to write the next word, the next sentence, the next paragraph. Move us toward healing and a healthy love of self. Give us signs of resurrection, not that we should ever shy from the reality of death but that we might never take the gift of life for granted. Send us searching for the respite that only you offer.
Lord, in your mercy… hear our prayers.

God who came to us in a child’s vulnerability: We entrust H____ and H____ to your care. We pray for Dan, for all the Helds, for all the Evanses. Knit them together as a family, that through their closeness, they might also feel you nearby. Compel us to be for them and with them, attentive and helpful in word and deed to these beloveds and to every grieving person—each reader, every classmate, each fellow parishioner, every friend. Interrupt their sorrow with unexpected graces: the delight of a young boy dancing to a song about monster trucks; the soft smile of a baby girl; one, then two, then three sleep-filled nights free of bad dreams; the happiness of a new high score in Ms. Pac-Man; a memory resurrected of a beloved mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend. Unravel our faith in our own ability to be good neighbors, and weave our heart’s desire with yours as we try to be trustworthy companions to one another.
Lord, in your mercy… hear our prayers.

God who calls us to witness through and to the bread of life and the cup of blessing: Embolden your church to testify to love, not fear, and to grace, not judgment. Stir in us repentance for proclaiming bad news. Remind us how to declare the good. Give us holy imagination and divine insight, that we may tend to the human needs that feed negativity and lashing-out. Create in us the courage to open our arms wide in sacred embrace and the humility to be recklessly generous, as our sister Rachel was. Transform us into balm for the wounds we’ve inflicted on others, in the true and right spirit of biblical personhood.
Lord, in your mercy… hear our prayers.

God who is ridiculous, inexplicable love: Help us to know, feel, and embody that love, radiating it out into a nation and a world that desperately need it. As Rachel had posted over her desk, our job is to tell the truth—and the truth is that this world isn’t the just, kind, righteous place of flourishing for all people, all creatures, that you would have it be. We pray against all forms of hate, disdain, and neglect, and we pray for all who have unfairly suffered its consequences—for women, for refugees and immigrants, for people of color, for LGBTQ people, for disabled people, for poor people, for the unseen, for the unheard. Inspire us to be women of valor, men of valor, people of valor—living out our faith, cultivating hope, and shining love on all around us, as Rachel did.

We pray all this in the name of the Creator who made us, the Redeemer who mediates for us, and the Spirit who never leaves us. Amen.

9 Responses

  1. Kathleen says:

    May god bless and keep you at this time of sorrow. May he fill your heart with peace and knowledge that you are loved and Rachel will not be forgotten.

  2. Anne says:

    Thank you Mr. Chu for allowing us to be able to reread your words. I may need to reread them from time to time. Bless you and your courage.

  3. Judi Lemay-Lusk says:

    thank you. your prayer was sweetly said and i am so glad i now have it in written words.

  4. Kelly Casey says:

    All of you who spoke were so eloquent and real. Just as Rachel was. God hold you all who knew her in the flesh from all of us who only knew her in our hearts. Pray for us Rachel. We loved you oh so much.

  5. […] friend Jeff published a beautiful prayer following her passing that I can’t shake. It has become my […]

  6. Mari Walker says:

    Amen. Amen. Amen

  7. Wendy says:

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute to Mrs. Held Evans. I only knew her through her writings, but your words help us all to understand the amazing person that she was. And even for those who didn’t know Mrs. Held Evens, your words are still powerful & amazing. God bless.

  8. Katie says:

    I finally had a chance to sit down and watch Rachel’s service this weekend, and weep. Your prayers were a beautiful testament to the truth of this gutwrenching situation. Thank you for taking the time to write them so thoughtfully and specifically.

  9. Dana Jemison says:

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful words; I feel known.

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