At the center of every Christian worship service, here and around the world, we hear words like these:
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
(or) Hear us, O God, your mercy is great.
As with so many parts of the Church’s liturgy, the Prayers of the People have an intentional structure. In the exercise of public prayer we gather our visions and intentions for the Jesus Community, the creation around us, the hurts and hopes of our neighbors, the mission of this congregation and its ministries, and the ongoing endurance of the saints in communion.
As I set about the task of writing each week’s prayers for worship, this orderly framework for petitions and thanksgivings are always on my heart. They form a framework for crafting a comprehensive voicing of this community’s many petitions for grace and peace in our midst, and that God’s Reign will flower in this weary world.
ø The Church: In this first petition, we ask God to grant the gift for which Jesus prayed so earnestly: true unity among all those who claim his name and mission. We ask for a fresh commitment to speak and serve the Gospel in daily life, that the entire world may know and receive the blessings of faith.
ø The World: Here we seek God’s peace and justice in every land. We pray for world leaders, for compassionate and just rule near and far. We pray for those charged with the duty of seeking and ensuring peace, including those in the armed services. We seek the welfare of the earth around us. Most of all, we ask God to make us instruments of that lasting peace through our words and deeds.
ø Those in Need: Our prayers extend to people in the midst of their hurts and hopes. We seek healing and recovery for those who are sick, restoration of broken relationships and broken bodies, comfort for those who grieve, and renewal for those whose faith is frail.
ø The Mission: In this petition, we ask God to embrace and inspire all the many ways we speak and serve God’s mission through this congregation, its schools and ministries. By God’s grace, we pray that our work will touch the thousands we serve with Christ’s love.
ø The Saints: In this concluding word, we ask for God’s continuing care for the saints of every time and place — those who rest in the arms of the Good Shepherd of our souls, and those who continue to live and serve here below. We stand in blessed communion with all who bear the mark of Christ upon the heart, and pray for our salvation and peace.
A phrase that always has its place in our prayers is one that I conceived many years ago as a new pastor, struggling to grasp our public voice:
Turn our wills to your wonder, our hearts to your grace, and our deeds to your Reign.
As we gather our prayers for the world as it is and for the world as we would have it be, may God — ever powerful and ever merciful — move us to do more than seek divine intervention for all we would dream and hope. May we step out in faith to accomplish God’s peace and