This past Advent (and on the first Sunday after Christmas day), I challenged myself to write prayers of lament for use in our church. I wanted to try to cover a specific topic with each prayer. With the extremely helpful feedback of my dear friend Ivan Santoso, I crafted the following five prayers.
I often learn and borrow from others as I lead congregational prayer, so I'm posting these prayers here in the hope that they will be helpful to others. Please feel free to copy, modify, or riff on these prayers for your own use (no need to credit me) or even be inspired to write and share your own.
LORD our God, our world is flooded with hatred, division, distrust. Arguments tear apart families; communities split along political lines; violence feels far from the last resort. We live in fear and suspicion of others who look or think or act differently. We are weary of conflict and hostility, but peace and harmony seem out of reach. Father, have mercy on your troubled world. Drive away false assumptions with your truth. Reconcile enemies through your transforming grace. Heal the hurts of slander and violence with your patient love. We pray in the name of Jesus, the Prince of peace. Amen.
God of abundant riches, many in our world have plenty, and many have far from enough. Children go to bed with empty bellies, and drought makes food scarce. Yet at times the controlling and corrupt disrupt relief efforts, and in other places spoiling food is thrown away because there is too much to eat. Father, our world is broken; we need your love and justice. Why must crops fail? How long must people made in your image starve and wither away? Give us hope that this is not the way things have to be. Restrain greed, waste, and selfishness. Feed the hungry and provide for the needy. Produce abundant harvests of food in our lands and rich harvests of generous compassion in human hearts. Bless those who use their power and resources to bless others for your kingdom. We pray in the name of Jesus, who satisfied the hungry crowds. Amen.
God, we take refuge under the shelter of your wings. Why must any person you have created suffer through abuse? How long must those you love live in fear? Hear the cries of spouses beaten and bruised by those who have pledged to love them. Look upon children belittled and neglected by trusted caretakers. Come to the aid of those who are sexually abused and violated. Show your love to those who have been threatened into silence. We lament, too, that women and girls are especially targeted by such evils. Defender of the weak, break the power of abusers so they cannot harm anymore. Protect the survivors of abuse; bring them safety and healing. Don’t let anyone turn a blind eye or deaf ear to their pain. Restore their sense of dignity and worth through your unfailing love. We pray in the name of Jesus, who has compassion for the harassed and helpless. Amen.
Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. We cry out to you on behalf of all those who have had to flee their homes. How long must your people suffer the destruction and devastation of war and violence? Why must oppressive governments and brutal cartels deprive those you care for of safety? Look with mercy upon those who endure persecution, those who seek to escape the carnage of natural disasters, those who do not have a place or nation to call home. Be their rock of refuge, to which they can always go. Bring them to a place where they can settle. We pray in the name of Jesus, who fled the threats of Herod. Amen.
God who knit us together in our mothers’ wombs, why do you sometimes feel so far away? Where are you when people made in your image are told that we are worthless, a mistake, a waste of time? How long will you allow human beings to be forgotten, overlooked, and dismissed—even by those closest to them? We cry out to you on behalf of those who have been made to feel that their lives don’t matter, that their voices don’t count, that they have nothing to contribute. Let your face shine on us when we suffer rejection, when we’re told we can’t do anything right, when we think everyone would be better off without us. Show us your favor and love. We look to you because of Jesus, your Son, who was born in humility and weakness as one of us, who welcomed sinners and outcasts, and who calls us His friends. In His name we pray, Amen.