I remember where I was when President Regan was shot. I remember where I was when the Challenger exploded. I remember where I was when planes ripped into the towers, the Pentagon, and a farmer’s field in Pennsylvania. And I will always remember where I was, just yesterday, when our nation was attacked not by a foreign government but by itself, by our own neighbors. I am still numb, shocked, saddened, and deeply anxious. When I really try to comprehend what those who stormed the capitol yesterday want or thought they would accomplish, I come up empty. I try to tell myself, as I have been told, that we all want the same thing. But to me, that rings hollow in light of the violent actions and rhetoric. So, I end up feeling more vengeful and resentful than understanding and compassionate. And that makes me more hurtful than helpful—to myself and to others. It makes me part of the problem.
How will all of this play out? How will we move forward? How will we heal? Will we even be able to? I don’t know, and right now no one does. That means that we’re in this together. All the way.
As people of faith, we begin such discernment with confession and with prayer. And prayer is more than words uttered. Prayer is a way of life deliberately engaged in constant transformation toward peace and wholeness—toward God’s Shalom. And right now, that new life is critically needed in our nation and our world.
So, let us pray, and let us live as examples of embodied prayer.
Most Holy and Merciful God,
How do we even begin to pray right now? We can pray for our nation. We can pray for the families of those who died on Epiphany in Washington. We can pray for our presidents and vice presidents. We can pray for lawmakers. We can pray for our law enforcement, military, and first responders. We can pray for our children, and their future. We can pray for enemies across the globe and across the aisle.
Yes, we can pray these things; and indeed, we do.
But Lord, if our prayers are words alone, they will do little more than clutter the air and numb our minds with lament, anxiety, fury, and sanctimony. And they will never be enough.
So, give human ears to our prayers, O God. Help us to listen to those with whom we so passionately disagree. Help us to do more than to “agree to disagree,” for that is simply to quit listening, to write off others as not worth our time, our effort, our honesty and love. And we have so thoroughly written off ‘the other’ these days that contempt has become a norm. And contempt is a fatal deafness.
Give human eyes to our prayers, O God. Help us to see beyond appearances. Help us to search our hearts and the hearts of others the way the Magi searched the skies and trusted what they saw. Help us to see the signs of your presence in a hurting and hurtful world and in all the lives around us—black lives, brown lives, white lives, poor lives, sick lives, comfortable lives, gay lives, straight lives, young lives, old lives, grateful and gracious lives, terrified and angry lives. If we cannot see the holiness of the lives around us, we cannot see it in ourselves. And not to see You in ourselves and in others is a fatal blindness.
Give human hands and feet to our prayers, O God. Help us to unclench our fists and to reach out in humble service to those most wounded by our communal pride, and greed, and fear. And help us to serve. Help us to follow Jesus, to trust Jesus, to love him, and to share him, to walk where he walks. This is hard, and for some of us almost impossible, for our culture, even our Christmas culture, tells us that we are entitled to material excess and to violence. But these are the enticements of the world’s selfish Caesars and brutal Herods who tempt us with shiny things, with mawkish platitudes, and promises of greatness and glory—things that must be held, carried, and protected with the hands and feet you have given us for lives of embodied prayer. To give into those temptations is to lose the reach of arm and hand, and the carriage of leg and foot. And such inaction is a fatal paralysis.
And Lord, give to our prayers the beating, fearless, human heart of Jesus who did not shy away from truth-telling, from challenging those who led the temple with self-serving piety, and from vexing those who led Jerusalem with resentment and intimidation. Saturate our hearts with your Christ that they may push his own life-giving breath, your Holy Spirit, through our arteries and veins that we may raise our voices for peace, for righteousness, for justice, and equality throughout the earth and throughout this Creation which is so shaken, troubled, holy, and good. For not to live courageously and not to speak prophetically is a fatal silence.
God, help us make our prayers more than words. Help us make our prayers our living, our doing, our seeing, our hearing, and our speaking. Help us to claim our Belovedness in Christ, and to acknowledge that same Belovedness in all that you have made. Turn us that we might follow Jesus as his humble disciples, as redeemed and redeeming servants, and as loving neighbors.
Lord in your mercy, do more than hear our prayer. Resurrect us into embodied prayers for ourselves, our families, our neighbors, our communities, our nation, your Church, and your world. Amen.