I wrote this for church this morning, where I led the portion of the service called “prayers of the people.” Happy Easter!
So I interrupt your regularly scheduled joyous Easter program to bring you: the prayers of the people. Seriously—as I prepared these prayers, I worried about being huge downer. There’s a section of the prayers of the people where you’re meant to pray for the world, and nations, and leaders—and it was hard to edit down that list to a manageable size.
It wasn’t yet Easter—I was writing and praying during Holy Week: on Thursday, when Jesus was betrayed and arrested. On Friday, when he was crucified. And mostly on Saturday, when his followers scattered in disbelief and grief and hopelessness. On Thursday and Friday and Saturday, so many things in our world seem so far from what we thought God was going to be like. There is so much suffering.
But I remembered: part of the beautiful mystery of the cross and the empty tomb is that suffering is not evidence of the absence of God but that God is present— even and maybe especially—in our pain. The love of God is stronger and more certain than it maybe appears to be on Saturday— I remembered that as followers of Jesus, we must bear the good news to people living in a Saturday world that Sunday is coming!—in fact, Sunday is here! Christ is risen!
And so we can bring our suffering to God with confidence, and hope, and even some inexplicable joy.
Jesus, LAMB OF GOD and head of the church: We pray for the church all over the world, especially for those who are persecuted as they profess today that you are Lord. May your church and each of us in it be known by our love. May we not turn away from suffering, but run toward it, to bear the awesome love and light of God in the dark places, risking our own comfort in order to bear your revolutionary love to each other and the world. We pray for this church and its leaders: fill us with your spirit of creative possibility.
God of PEACE: We are gutted by the uncertainty and division in our country. We despair as bombs and missiles explode. We weep over refugees for whom it seems there is no hope. We grieve for families in Syria bombed and poisoned by their own leaders. We recoil at news about gay men imprisoned and tortured in Chechnya. Our souls ache.
Soften the hearts of those who have the power to destroy communities and families. Make a way for healing love to transform those places where it appears there is no way. We yearn for peace. We cry out to you for mercy and miracle in strongholds of death and destruction.
God who SEES: we pray for your beloved children who are too often unseen. Your beloved sons who are poor or homeless, your cherished daughters who are abused or addicted. The lonely, the tired. Open our eyes to see them, to serve them, to uphold the dignity of each of their precious lives.
God who SUFFERED and DIED: we pray for people who are in pain, for people who are sick, and people who are dying. We pray for caretakers and the grief-stricken. Today, especially, we pray with confidence of people who know that death is not the final word; that LOVE is the final word.
God of LIGHT: We lift up those in special need of your care.
Those we name and others known only to you. You know the pain we bury in deep, dark places—the things we try to hide from others, from ourselves, and even from You. We open those places to you now and ask for the healing light of your grace there. Show us the the way to the full and abundant life we were created for.
RISEN God: we have gathered all these sorrows and hopes and regrets and fears and brought them to your grave to mourn, only to find it empty. Sunday is here! There is hope! We bring these cares to a living God, and remember that there is no sorrow too great, no threat too severe, no evil too powerful to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.