Prayers of the People

  • Jack Heppner, Author
  • Retired Educator

Please Note:

  1. Many of the words and phrases used in this prayer are not mine. They come from people near and far who shared with me about their experiences and emotions during this pandemic.
  2. In the last Canadian Mennonite, Kari Miller says, “People must lament. Lament is a profoundly hopeful act, one that creates space for grief to be acknowledged while seeing the potential for a better future.”
  3. There are no corporate responses in this prayer. Persons will respond, each in their own way, with tears, sighs, groans, shouts, whispers, prayers or silence – depending on how the Spirit moves them. There will be one silent space in which you are invited to own your feelings and emotions.

A Prayer of Lament and Hope – Seeds Community Church, June 13, 2021

  • How long, O Lord? How long?
  • How long till we can get ourselves untangled from the cords of Covid?
  • Is a year not enough? Is eighteen months too much to ask for?
  • Will it be two years before we can return to something approaching normal?

And why has it taken so long for the great unveiling to begin?

  • The erosion of democracy where we thought it was secure.
  • The Tulsa massacre kept hidden for a hundred years.
  • The mass graves of indigenous children hidden beneath sod and pavement.
  • The Christian church’s unholy alliance with the powers of darkness.
  • The sexual abuse perpetrated by powerful leaders of church bodies.

We live in a strange world these days.

A world where hospitals are full and overflowing – exacerbated by people who live with delusion; those who

  • don’t trust doctors’ recommendations to fight off Covid, but demand full attention when they do get sick. Hospitals where critical surgeries are cancelled or postponed, leaving some to suffer needlessly, or to die alone behind walls that keep loved ones out.

A world in which our extended families are kept at bay.

  • Grandchildren graduate from schools they seldom see;
  • without the embrace and adulation of grandparents hidden somewhere behind computer screens.
  • Children growing into adulthood in silos designed to keep them safe – and mostly alone.

A world in which parents can only wish for their children to know what it’s like to grow up

  • hanging out with friends like they did only a few years ago;
  • going for sleep-overs, playing team sports, going for a swim on hot summer days,
  • exploring the world beyond the confining circles drawn by state officials.

A world where seniors languish in care homes – now mostly safe from Covid –

  • but restricted from connections to their ever-widening family circles;
  • sometimes confused, disoriented, or having lost the will to stay alive.

A world in which our disparities have been magnified.

A world that leaves us pressed endlessly, it seems, into claustrophobic corners of despair.

A world where goals are mostly made for days or weeks ahead.

  • Just get us through this thing already! It’s been too long – even you, O Lord, know this!
  • And what about those in poor countries with few resources who suffer even more than we do; some whom we know and love – hopeless, forsaken, broken and dying?

And why these other great unveilings now when we are already weary and worn?

  • Do you suppose, O Lord, that we can come through all this unscathed?
  • But maybe that’s the point. Maybe you want us to see and touch the scars left behind in a broken world by those who came before us and even by ourselves!
  • Maybe that is the only way for healing to come to our lands, our churches, our homes and our hearts.
  • Sometimes, Lord, we are impatient – actually most of the time!

We are frustrated a lot;

  • So many good things have been taken from us.
  • Too much selfishness by too many which we find repulsive.
  • A permanent paralysis keeps us from making plans.
  • And often we are too tired even to try to do what we actually can still do.

Sometimes it feels like we live in a surreal world;

  • That maybe one day we will wake up and discover this was all a dream.
  • Even though we know that’s not actually going to happen.

Although we try to keep our chins up and greet the world with a smile, we admit

  • That we are discouraged and disappointed.
  • That the whiplash of emotions has left us numb, dull, divided and trapped.

We languish with our losses too many to count.

We are angry and cast about for scapegoats on whom to pile our anger.

And the great unveilings of our time leave us

  • Speechless – any potential words replaced by tears.
  • They leave us with a raging shame – a wild remorse.

These are the emotions we feel and often don’t know what to do with except hold them before you openly and honestly, Lord.

(Silent Space……)

And yet we are thankful for those among us who are hopeful – who are at rest and seek to be faithful in these difficult times. They are messengers of light! So we lean on them, Lord, as we lean on you.

  • They see hope that the cosmic stew now boiling in our cauldrons of distress
  • will provide the nourishment and alertness we need to envision a new world;
    and give us the courage, and fortitude to participate in the renewal of the world –
  • A world in which there is enough for everyone forever.
  • A world where the connectedness of all things is valued.
  • A more unified world where restorative justice and simplicity are treasured.
  • A world that has room and time to listen to the voice of the Spirit and the voices of each other.
  • A world where love keeps on replacing greed and self-centeredness.
  • A world where justice will roll down like waters.
  • A world in which your people demonstrate what it means to be truly alive!

So as we look to you, O Lord, we hear the words of the prophet Isaiah:

Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to take a breath.
And he knows everything, inside out.
He energizes those who get tired,
gives fresh strength to the dropouts.
For even young people get tired and drop out,
young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
they walk and don’t lag behind.

These are great words! Great thoughts! Some of us find them hard to believe.

But we hear them and let them wash over us like cool water from a deep well.

And we will carry on – one step at a time!

So help us God.

Jack Heppner