March 2, 2008

Prayers of the People

John H. Boyle, Parish Associate

God of blessing and abundance, we are grateful that in Jesus Christ you chose to enter into and become a participant with us in the fullness of our humanity. You meet us, who so often try to make you into our own image, at the intersection of our thoughts and feelings about you and about what you are up to in the world and in our lives.

We wonder if our Lord Jesus might have been disappointed with you when he realized that in spite of his prayer in Gethsemane, you would not get him off the hook that was soon to become his cross. Surely he was disappointed with his disciples who decided to nap while he was agonizing with you in prayer. Because he was all of you that could be packed into a human being, he knew what we sometimes experience with you, with others, and with ourselves. Because he knew, you know, and just as you did not hold it against him, so we are reassured in the hope and belief that you will not hold it against us. For that we are grateful, O God.

At times it seems as though your mercy is highly selective, O God. Some suffer endlessly while others seem to get off scot-free. If to be human is to suffer, we might not mind it so much if it were spread around more evenly. At least those of us who are suffering more these days might not. It’s the inequity of it all that bothers and disappoints us, O God, sometimes to the point of outrage. For we had hoped and expected that you would protect us and that everyone would be treated fairly. Hidden in our disappointment, though not totally, is not only our resentment but our sadness over the loss of our illusions about you and others, about life and the world, and about ourselves.

O God, in the loneliness of disappointment—ours with you and yours with us—help us to know you will not abandon us, and let the awareness of your presence with us in the midst of it all provide us some measure of comfort even when in anger and anguish we might want to shake our fist in your face and cry out as our Lord did on the cross, “Why? Why?” We love you, dear God, but sometimes it’s so hard.

We pray, dear Lord, for all who suffer the sorrow of loss, the ravages of illness and pain, the deprivations of poverty, hunger, and homelessness, the terror of oppression, abuse, and violence, and for those who live on the threshold of death. Bring to them such healing, hope, and comfort as they may need to encourage and strengthen them in their distress.

We pray for your world, so torn by conflict, and for our nation, so divided by the intoxication of ideology and by the prejudices of race, class, and gender. Help us to be open to the power of your love to heal our brokenness.

Grant us, as your church in the world, enough of the grace of cynicism that will help us avoid unrealistic expectations when it comes to change, and courage to do the right thing needed, that the integrity of our witness to your truth and justice might outweigh our concern with success or failure. And grant us enough of the grace of hopefulness to keep cynicism from becoming a cushion against our commitment to make changes that are needed.

We pray in the name of the one by whose grace our disappointment is transformed into dedication to your will to look up and laugh and love and lift and with the words he taught us to pray, saying,

Our Father . . .