April 13, 2008

Prayers of the People

John H. Boyle, Parish Associate

God of all creation and of all people everywhere, we give thanks this day for the beauty and wonder of the world in spite of the ugliness we often encounter in it and for the intimations of your grace that insist on springing up from the dark soily recesses of suffering and sorrow. We are grateful for your love for us and for your call to us to love and serve needy people in a broken world.

Drop your mantle of mercy, we pray, upon all who are suffering this day: those who are sick but who will be restored and those who are sick unto death, those who are being abused and violated in any way, those bowed down with sorrow, and those who, burdened with guilt and shame, live with the terror of being unforgiven. Bring to these and to us the awareness of your caring presence and the assurance of your forgiving grace. And when, as a result of the painful loss of a loved one, we feel utterly abandoned and forsaken, help us to remember that we are not ultimately abandoned or forsaken and that we can never drift beyond your love and care.

We pray for our nation during this turbulent and unsettling time and for the safety and well-being of those who serve in the armed forces throughout the world, especially for those who continue to risk their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bless with your healing and comforting mercy those who come home from war broken in body and spirit, and grant courage to their loved ones who care for them.

Stay the hand of those in power who exploit the patriotism of the people of this nation for the sake of an ideology that is at best questionable and for political and personal gain. Help us as individuals and as a nation not to be so quick to claim moral superiority over others that we lose sight of our own imperfections, and keep us from allowing our perceived perfection to grant us license to be ruthless and to lord it over others. Above all, grant us courageous compassion that not only is willing to look upon the bloodied body of human suffering, but is also committed to keep the flow of human hatred from coagulating in the veins of our society.

We praise you, dear God, for the church, which, in spite of its failures and flaws, nurtures and challenges us. Keep us from being taken in by those, in and outside the church, who clothe their lust for power, their addiction to greed, their elitism, and their all-too-ready willingness to resort to violence in the layered garments of righteous pretense and moralistic piety. May the awareness of our communion with all who through the years have sought to be faithful to truth and justice and to your love and grace in the world keep us honest and true to ourselves, to others, and to you.

Though the image of us as sheep may not be flattering to us, O God, dirty and dumb as they sometimes seem to be, we admit that we too need a shepherd. For it is easy in a world so full of sights that dazzle, sounds that tempt, and chaos that confuses for us to wander off in many differing directions, as though suffering from some sort of attention deficit. Shepherd of our souls and Guardian of our lives, keep reminding us that you are our refuge and strength, for we are often poor little lambs who have lost our way. Gather each of us into the fold of your loving care, there to find a settled rest; no more a stranger or a guest, but like a child at home.

We pray in the name of the one we know as the Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep and who came that we might have life, and have it abundantly, even Jesus Christ our Lord, praying as he taught, saying,

Our Father . . .