Prayers of the People: Longing for Your Presence

We continue to pray the Prayers of the People from July 17 worship: 

Lord Jesus, we worship you this morning with thanksgiving. We are truly grateful to be together in your presence . . . that you welcome us, no matter what we’ve done; despite our skepticism, despite our doubt, despite how poorly we’ve treated one another, and how poorly we’ve treated ourselves, you welcome us with arms wide open. We are grateful to be part of your family: that you created us in love, that you’ve called us daughters and sons. Our hearts long for you. We long for a taste of your glory and power and goodness in our lives.

And our longing is especially salient these days. As we look back over the last few weeks, we’re overwhelmed by so much violence, so much tragedy. Terrorist attacks in Baghdad, Bangladesh, Nice; 49 killed at a nightclub in Orlando; Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile shot and killed by police; five police officers shot by a sniper in Dallas; three police officers shot and killed in Baton Rouge; and now another shooting at a Florida nightclub.

We long for you, Lord. We long for a taste of your presence in this petrifying darkness.

Every week, every few days, there are new unimaginable tragedies. New hashtags. New places to send our thoughts and prayers. And we’re tired. We’re tired of feeling numb. We’re tired of wondering what it means for our kids to grow up in a world where mass shootings are a consistent fixture in daily news. We’re tired of seeing innocent lives being taken. And we’re tired of our own limp response--not knowing what to do, or what to say, or how to be your people in this broken and frightening world.

Paul talks about how God’s people make the gospel known not merely in words, but in action. Lord, we want to be those kinds of believers. We want to be people who pray fervently for those who are suffering, and who pray fervently against the forces of evil wherever and whenever we see them. But even more than just prayer, we want to be activated to be your Living Word in the world. We want to be activated in our work places, our neighborhoods, our families, our friendships, our government, and our world.

And so, as we come before you together as your people in prayer, we reject the notion that our job is done when we say “amen.” We reject the notion that following you is nothing more than sending thoughts and prayers. We reject the notion that we can say amen and then detach ourselves from suffering in other communities or other parts of the world and go on with our lives, and we confess the unearned privilege that has allowed us to do so. We reject the notion that it’s someone else’s job to speak up on behalf of those who are oppressed. We reject the fear of the other that keeps us from action and creates division and enmity.

And so, in the power of your Spirit, by the power of your Gospel, we take up your call on our lives, as God’s beloved and chosen people by putting down our phones, getting off the couch, and getting out into the neighborhood lives. Give us fresh ideas for the ways we might confront violence and injustice in tangible, relational, and even legislative ways. Help us to actively step away from our complicity in divisiveness and oppression; help us to recognize the ways we diminish the irreducible humanity of others because of their skin tone or religious belief or sexual orientation or political party, and create in us a clean heart. Illuminate for us a clear pathway towards justice and peace; give us a full measure boldness, humility, grace, and perseverance that we might not grow weary, and steady us as we fumble along, learning what it means to live as your people.

Amen.