A Prayer of the People

A Prayer of the People from Sunday, June 10th

Dr. Richard White

Father, we have gathered here today as you children to seek your blessing.

The ugly truth is that we don’t want you to tell us what to do. We presume upon your grace and pretend that you have no right to make demands on our lives. We want you to shower us with good things, to support us, and to tell us we are making progress – even if we are not – but at the same time, we try to avoid any responsibility to you, to others in the household of faith, to our neighbors, or to those who need a word of kindness or need a companion on a difficult journey.

In fact, we mostly complain that the demands of your grace are too heavy. That you ask too much of us. That you are the cause of our distress.

We are addicts – all of us – returning to false gods, idols fashioned in our own image because we have neither the will nor the strength to turn away. On our worst days we are studiously ignorant of the dangers of a world whose center and circumference is ourselves. On better days, we careen from self- love to self-loathing; or perhaps, see the circumstance of others and congratulate ourselves falsely assuming our own wit and strength allowed us to escape their mess. Our best days are when we gather as your children, come to your presence, admit to you and to each other that we are less than we want to be – less than your grace requires.

Once, when you walked among us, many left you, Jesus, because they found your words too difficult, found grace “a divine verdict requiring obedience and action” too demanding.* You asked your intimate friends, the disciples, if they too would leave. Peter’s words echo in our minds, resonate in our hearts, and we say with him “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

You are the bread of heaven (John 6:35), our daily bread (Matthew 5:11), the air we breathe (Job 32:8; 33:4). Like starving birds in the nest, mouths open demanding attention, we long to be filled.

Sweet Holy Spirit, our companion, our strength, our guide – blow as you will across our lives (John 14:6; 3:8). With some fear we ask your holy fire burn away our self-centered preoccupation. Shower us with gifts of kindness, goodness, gentleness, patience, joy and love (Galatians 5:22-23). We know each gift, though freely given, implies responsibility (Luke 12:28). Be our will when we are weak. Be our guide in the dark and uncertain places – whether on the heights or in the depths.

Tutor us in the substantial world of the spirit so we will be well-prepared to engage the transient world of flesh and bone, of buildings and roads, of nations and states, of seasons of war and peace, and calm and disaster. Open our eyes to the beauty of all that you have made whether it be found in mountains and streams, music and art, science and medicine, children laughing and friends talking, and even the babbling derelict or crone living rough in house of cardboard and plastic.

We need not remind you of the many natural and unnatural disasters the world over – Nicaragua, Guatemala, Sudan, Somalia, Burundi, the DRC, the Ukraine, Syria and more. Certainly, you know of the war on the poor in our own country (Amos 8:6). You are not unaware of racial hatred, nationalism, untethered capitalism, and the muddled moral and ethical environments of our state and national capitals. Please throw a hedge of thorns around the most vulnerable (Job 1:10). Protect them. Keep them from further harm. Send us, if you must, to be a witness for peace – to stand and resist the powers by and for your name’s sake (Matthew 5:9).

We pray for our sisters and brothers the world over. May your spirit move through the midst of your church so that, like Saul among the prophets (1 Samuel 10:10) or the elders in the camp of the Israelites (Numbers 11:24-26), like David before the altar (2 Samuel 6:14) or Peter on Pentecost (Acts 2), there will be dancing and prophesying and proclamation of the truth – proclamation of the good news of the infinite riches of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:8). In whose name we pray, Amen.

*(Strange Glory, A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer By Andrew J. Bacevich p. 135)

A Prayer Written by Dr. Richard White