Praying through the Winter Solstice

A prayer by Harry Martin, which I offer in celebration of the southern winter solstice,

Jesus, Love, we seek your coming.

As your servants we join with all creation

in proclaiming your glory.

The winter barren trees look heavenward,

Anticipating the newness of life,

coming in the springs of your resurrection.

The soaring eagle lifts our hearts,

that with your holy angels,

we can climb the heights of your holy hills.

The whiteness of the fresh snow

refracts the light and beauty

that the call of your holiness brings to us.

Jesus, Love, our Creator King,

we rejoice at your coming,

and yet we sorrow.

Your Holy Word shines upon our path.

And we see…

Lives imprisoned and impoverished

by greed.

Country sides crushed and ravaged by wars

where hate, pride and arrogance reign.

We see waters poisoned by neglect,

Birdsongs of praise stilled

by the corruption of need and want.

Creator King, we weep with the doe

seeking her fawn

crushed by the rush of human traffic.

We sorrow with the unborn child

who will never know,

the beauty of the daybreak.

We weep, coming King,

Because we fail to see and cherish,

the holy beauty and joy

of all life and creation you have made.

Remembering all living things in prayer

This prayer is commonly attributed to Saint Basil, the Bishop of Caesarea in the fourth century, though this is somewhat contested. Irrespective of it’s origins I think we can benefit from it.

 

O God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, even our brothers, the animals, to whom Thou gave the earth as their home in common with us. We must remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to Thee in song, has been a groan of pain. May we realise that they live, not for us alone, but for themselves and for Thee and that they love the sweetness of life

The daily Trinitarian prayer of John Stott

Heavenly Father, I pray that I may live this day in your presence and please you more and more.

Lord Jesus, I pray that this day I may take up my cross and follow you.

Holy Spirit, I pray that this day you will fill me with yourself and cause your fruit to ripen in my life:

Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control

Holy, blessed and glorious trinity, three persons in one God, have mercy upon me.

Almighty God, Creator and sustainer of the universe, I worship you.

Lord Jesus Christ, Savior and Lord of the World, I worship you.

Holy Spirit, Sanctifier of the people of God, I worship you.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,

As it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be forever, Amen.

Is it okay for Christians to pray to saints?

all-saintsAs a Protestant, I am sure you are expecting me to answer no, and insist that prayer should be directed to God alone. And you’re right, that is my position. What may surprise you though, is that I concede that the official Catholic position is much the same. How is this? Read on.

The official Catholic position is that Catholics do not pray TO saints, but rather that Catholics merely ask saints to pray FOR them. In defence of this practice, Catholics often cite the visions found in the book of Revelation, of martyred saints offering prayers to God in heaven. Could Catholics be reading too much into these passages? I strongly suspect so, but I’m not going argue it here. What I am going to focus on instead is that, be that as it may, the practice of many diverges from official Roman Catholic teaching anyway. Unofficial though it may be, many do in fact pray directly to saints, asking them for help – instead of asking the saints to intercede with God for help – in ways that contradict both Protestant and Catholic teaching.

Take this prayer for example:

Dear Saint Joseph, you were yourself once faced with the responsibility of providing the necessities of life for Jesus and Mary. Look down with fatherly compassion upon me in my anxiety with my present inability to support my family. Please help me find gainful employment very soon, so that this great burden of concern will be lifted from my heart and that I am soon able to provide for those whom God has entrusted to my care. Help me guard against discouragement, so that I may emerge from this trial spiritually enriched and with even greater blessings from God. Amen.

Notice that Joseph is being imploring for his help, not God, and that there is no request for God to intercede, only Joseph. Indeed God seems somewhat secondary here, as someone who lays burdens on us, and blesses us in some mysterious way, but who isn’t particularly unapproachable or helpful in any practical sense. This sort of prayer is not uncommon.

I would suggest that, whether Protestant or Catholic, we’d be wise to reflect critically on the acceptability of such prayers to God. If we place any authority in the prophets and apostles then we’d be wise to follow their lead and make God the focus of our prayers always, regardless of what intercessory role we see for saints.

A Prayer of Indigenous Peoples, Refugees, Immigrants, and Pilgrims

A Prayer of Indigenous Peoples, Refugees, Immigrants, and Pilgrims

Triune God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
we come before you as many parts of a single body.
people drawn from every tribe,
every nation, every language;
some indigenous—peoples of the land;
some refugees, immigrants, pilgrims—people on the move;
some hosts, some guests, some both hosts and guests;
all of us searching for an eternal place where we can belong.

Creator, forgive us.
The earth is yours and everything that is in it.
But we forget.
In our arrogance we think we own it.
In our greed we think we can steal it.
In our ignorance we worship it.
In our thoughtlessness we destroy it.
We forget that you created the earth to bring praise and joy to you.
That you gave it as a gift,
for us to steward,
for us to enjoy,
for us to see more clearly your beauty and your majesty.

Jesus, save us.

We wait for your kingdom.
We long for your throne.
We hunger for your reconciliation,
for that day where people from every tribe and every tongue
will gather around you and sing your praises.

Holy Spirit, teach us.
Help us to remember
that the body is made up of many parts,
each one unique and every one necessary.
Teach us to embrace the discomfort that comes from our diversity
and to celebrate the fact that we are unified, not through our sameness,
but through the blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Triune God, we love you.
Your creation is beautiful.
Your salvation is merciful.
And your wisdom is beyond compare.

We pray all this in Jesus’ name.
Amen.

—Mark Charles. This prayer appears in the hymnal Lift Up Your Hearts (#270), available at FaithAliveResources.org.

Lord of justice and mercy

Lord of justice and mercy,
both strong and loving,
creator of the earth and humankind,
we praise you for your omnipotence
and we thank you for your presence in our lives.
Lord, we ask that you teach us to love our neighbor,
so that we may obey your commands.
We ask that you teach us to have compassion
for our neighbors who may be different from us,
so that we truly understand what it is to love.
We ask that you give us strength to speak for those
who cannot speak for themselves.
Lord, we wish to do your will:
to promote justice and live faithfully.
We ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.
Amen.

—Carissa VanHaitsma, Office of Social Justice, Christian Reformed Church

Refuge for the oppressed

Immigration

Dear Lord, our shelter
and refuge for the oppressed,
we praise you for your ultimate power
and unsurpassable love.
We thank you for your unfailing justice and
we thank you for never forsaking those who love you.
O Lord of compassion,
we ask for your continued mercy for those who seek shelter,
for the refugees and immigrants in our midst.
Lord, we thank you for loving the stranger,
and we ask you to continue to protect those
who are without documentation.
We turn to you, God of refuge, power, love, and compassion,
through Jesus Christ, in whom we pray.
Amen.

—Carissa VanHaitsma, Office of Social Justice, Christian Reformed Church. 

Clear the way in us, your people

Hanto Yo

(Hanto Yo means “clear the way” in the Lakota language of the North American Plains.)

God of surprises,
you call us
from the narrowness of our traditions
to new ways of being church,
from the captivities of our culture to
creative witness for justice,
from the smallness of our horizons
to the bigness of your vision.

Clear the way in us, your people,
that we might call others to freedom
and renewed faith.

Jesus, wounded healer,
you call us
from preoccupation with our own histories and hurts
to daily tasks of peacemaking,
from privilege and protocol
to partnership and pilgrimage,
from isolation and insularity
to inclusive community.

Clear the way in us, your people,
That we might call others to
wholeness and integrity.

Holy, transforming Spirit,
you call us
from fear to faithfulness,
from clutter to clarity,
from a desire to control to deeper trust,
from the refusal to love to a readiness to risk.

Clear the way in us, your people,
that we might all know the beauty and power
and danger of the gospel.

—Gwyn Cashmore and Joan Puls, From One Race the Human Race: Racial Justice Sunday 2003, published by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland: Churches Commission for Racial Justice, London.

Giving thanks for the land

One of the ways we are seeking to follow God and Jesus in more eco-sensitive ways is through acknowledging the land when we give thanks for meals. A simple prayer I sometimes say is this:

God

We thank you for this meal

For the land which provided it

And the hands which prepared it

In the name of Jesus

Amen

 

A peace prayer that we can all share

This peace prayer is not Christian in origin. It actually comes from the Druids, who according to the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids, often say it in their ceremonies. However, since it leaves it up to you which divinity you are addressing it to, I would suggest it it is a prayer we can all join in praying.

Deep within the still centre of my being
May I find peace.
Silently within the quiet of the grove
May I share peace.
Gently (or powerfully) within the greater circle of humankind
May I radiate peace.