Sunday Prayers, Ahead of Thanksgiving
Old First Reformed Church, Brooklyn, New York
Twenty-Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
GOD, we approach you with the cares of our immediate lives, with the stresses of our every day. Thank you for all that you have provided. Bless the food that you have brought into this sanctuary and the families who will eat it when it goes out from this place. We pray for the worries that preoccupy us—our jobs, our finances, our grades, our families. Lift our hearts now and open them, reminding us that you hold us all in your hands. We bring before you the names of those who have asked us to pray for them: _________. We also pray silently but no less ardently for those whose names remain known only to us. God, give us clarity and bolster our confidence in your plans for our lives. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
GOD, we come before you amid much fear and confusion, at a time when the world seem so overwhelming. This week, our nation is called to give thanks. But is gratitude really primary in our hearts and minds? Break down our selfishness, both individual and collective, and replace it with generosity. Let us look at all we have and the abundance that is around us, not just the material things in our lives and homes but also this beautiful world. Make sure we have moments of joy and of wonder punctuating our days, moments when we pause to marvel at what is good and more than good–a hug, some laughter, a cherished photograph, autumn leaves, a shooting star in the sky. We pray for ourselves and for each other as the holidays approach—Thanksgiving this week and the Christmas season soon afterward. We pray for the excitement and anticipation but also, let’s be honest, the anxiety and the stress. God, calm our nerves and grant us courage. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
GOD, we lift up to you the needs of this city and this country. Give us strength to address squarely the ways in which we treat so many other people as “less than,” whether it’s for socioeconomics or race or ethnicity, sexual identity or gender. Give us resolve to deal with the problems we’ve created, from our environmental messes to our political ones, from the systemic oppression of people of color to perpetual gun violence to the continued murders of transgender women. We pray for all our different leaders, not just our president and governor and senators and congressmen but also our teachers and our executives and our students and our artists. We pray too that we would be good followers when we ought to be. God, break down our arrogance and build up our humility. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
GOD, we beg you for love for so many whose names we don’t even know—other countries, other faiths, other cultures. We pray that we would stop seeing others as “other,” and, really, what we’re praying for is an end to the hatred, the hatred that rips apart bodies and destroys families and devastates communities and halts lives, from terrorist attacks to ethnic cleansing, from economic injustice to the simple dehumanization that allows us to take advantage of and oppress others. We pray for Mali and especially for the families of the victims of the terrorist attack in Bamako, as well as for the families of the perpetrators. We pray for Nigeria and especially for the families of the victims of the terrorist attacks in Yola and Kano, as well as for the families of the perpetrators—what kind of broken world is this that an 11-year-old girl becomes a suicide bomber? We continue to pray for Paris and Beirut and Baghdad, for Burma and Yemen, for Liberia and for LEAD, our mission partner there, and for the return of Ebola, for Libya and for Syria, for all the refugees who find themselves on difficult journeys to points unknown and also for those who wish they could escape their circumstances but haven’t yet found a way out. Don’t we all, on some level, know what it’s like to feel stuck? We pray that you would remind us to pray for those far away, and we pray also for our own tendency to judge and malign, to condescend to and to patronize. Stop us from doing these things. Shift our thinking and shift our feeling. Move our hands to keep doors open and grow our hearts to see the inherent dignity in even those who we hate or hate us. God, shrink our egos and supersize our love. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
GOD, grant us proper perspective in these days ahead, and let that perspective help us look at those around us with grace and patience, tenderness and care. We pray that we would remember, in the best possible sense, that this is about us–not in a selfish way but in the sense that all humanity is knit together and in awareness of how we create distance from each other to protect ourselves and to make judgment and being unloving easier. We pray “we” and “us,” not “they” and “them,” because purposeful, self-giving love is something all of us have always struggled with in so many areas of our lives. Compel us to love as you have loved, and move us to painstakingly share that love with those around our tables, those in our offices and our schools, those in our inboxes, those in our congregations and our denominations, those around our nation, those around our world. It’s not easy. We fail all the time. But we thank you that we can come to you and ask for this over and over, that we can ask you in confidence to strengthen us every day in pursuit of the love that Jesus modeled for us–humble love, love that challenges those around us to be the best versions of ourselves, love that looks otherworldly and at times impossible and always beautiful. God, be with us and remind us that you are.
We pray all these things in the name of that life-changing Jesus, that loving Christ. Amen.