Prayers for the weary, the angry, the anxious, and the hopeful
A prayer book, and a conference....
I was asked recently if there are any prayer books I recommend.
Here’s one compiled by our ownwith contributions from myself, Barbara Brown Taylor, Amena Brown, Lisa Sharon Harper, Rozella White, Kaitlin Curtis and more.
Many of the contributors to this fine book will be together next month in Minneapolis along with Sarah Bessey and a whole slew of other amazing folks for the Evolving Faith conference…and it’s not too late to join us!
Below is a version of the prayer I contributed, which was taken from a sermon I preached at Evolving Faith in 2019:
Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her. He came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.
Jesus had compassion for a widow, a woman who had already buried her husband and now was burying her only son. And so he reached out and touched them. He said Young man rise up. And the man rose and began to speak and Jesus gave him to his mother.
I know they are kins bonkers, but I love stories of resurrection. I love stories of resurrection because I am someone who is desperate for 2nd chances. I love stories of resurrection because they are messy and weird and sink a hook of hope into me that nothing else can.
And we could use some divine hope, right now could we not? We could use some resurrection up in here. We could use something a little more powerful than our virtues – a little more reliable than our attempts to just try harder. I’ve tried trying harder it doesn't make me free, it just makes me tired.
So based on this story, I have written this prayer for us:
God of compassion,
As you did in Nain, enter our city gates.
Enter into the somber roads down which our hearses drive and the glad streets down which our children run.
Enter the parks where the junkies shoot up and the yuppies listen to jazz.
Walk uninvited into starter mansions and public housing and dorms and cheap motel rooms that charge by the hour.
Stroll into the cool-air freezer section where the pregnant women escape the heat and the bus stop benches where the weary wait.
Enter every law office and adult books store.
Step into the spaces we say we feel your awesomeness and the places where we claim your forsakenness.
Enter our city gates, God of Compassion as you did the city of Nain. And bless.
Bless the things we mistakenly think are already dead.
Bless that which we have already begun to carry out of town to bury.
Bless our rocky marriages and our college age kids who smoke too much pot.
Bless the person at work who we love to hate.
Bless the young adult who wonders if they are too young to really be an alcoholic, and bless the 6o year old woman who’s had too much work done.
Bless the public school lunch ladies and the guy who stole my kid’s bike.
Bless the chronically sick. Bless the one who has no one.
Bless what we call insignificant and which you call magnificent.
Bless it all and love what only you can love: the ugly, and abandoned and unsanitary in the wash of humanity upon which you have nothing but a gleaming compassion when we have none.
God of Compassion who saw the Widow of Nain, we thank you for seeing us.
Seeing our loneliness and our bravery.
Seeing the times we can’t say what we need to.
Seeing the ones who have never felt like they are enough but who you know already are and always have been.
Seeing the moments when we are more than we thought we could be. Seeing what no one else can or will.
Thank you for seeing as beautiful what we call ugly and that in your compassion you wipe away all tears. Teach us to see each other.
Reach out and raise us God of compassion.
Touch us as you did the wood on which the widow’s son lay and speak those same words to us: Young man arise. Little girl, get up.
To we who think we are not worthy to be loved and medicate ourselves with food and booze and shopping, say “rise up”.
To us who have been hurt by those who say they follow you say “rise up”.
To those who feel unworthy of forgiveness say “rise up”.
To the ones who care for the least of these and who feel too burnt out to keep going, say “rise up”.
To we who are holding onto resentments like a security blanket say “rise up”.
To those who hide their failings behind their good works say “rise up”.
To the unloved child who has no idea that one day they will change the world say “rise up”.
And when again God of Compassion, you have raised the dead…when again you have made whole that which is broken, when again you have ripped out my heart of stone and replaced it with a heart of flesh, when again you have reached into the graves we dig ourselves and loved us back to life…don’t stop there.
Help us, Lord. Like the young man of Nain help us to sit up and speak. Give us words that are not empty affirmation, but give us strong words, as real as the very soil from which you raised us.
Give us the words lord, but also (especially in my case) give us the pause before the words. Please.
And then, as you did the son to his mother, give us one to another.
Make us one in this fractured world.
Our country is divided, neighbor against neighbor, world-view against world-view and we are so sure we are right and they are wrong.
It’s a mess down here, Lord, and we’ve prayed that whole “Thy kingdom come” line a LOT already so we might stop asking nicely.
We need your Kingdom of love and grace and mercy to speed the hell up.
And if that’s not possible then open our eyes to where your kingdom already is taking root and growing among us, turn our eyes from our despair to any amount of light which is spreading, however small.
And help us to know when we do not have enough compassion for the road ahead, that you do, and that that is enough.
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