The recent attack on our nation’s capitol has shaken us all. Regardless of our politics, the scenes of violence and assault are deeply disturbing. In a democracy, the right of people to protest decisions they do not agree with is important. What we saw this past week in Washington was not a peaceful protest, but a violent act of lawlessness. There are many things that led up to that event, but the end result was the endangering of our duly elected officials and their staffs as they went about their constitutional business of certifying the election of our next President. It resulted in needless destruction of property, physical injury and even death of people caught up in the melee. The message of protest got lost in the violence that ensued.
Combine this with all too-frequent instances of racial injustice (also often leading to death) that are sweeping our country and the tension and fear brought on by the pandemic of COVID-19, and humanity is being put to a test unlike we have known in our lifetime.
People of faith are being asked to pray for our nation, our leaders and for those directly affected by these events. This is good. I believe in prayer and encourage it. However, I also believe that prayer is not complete unless it is coupled with action. Prayer is always meant to be God-centered. When God is at the center of our life, self cannot dominate. On the other hand, when self is at the center, God is squeezed out.
I believe that is what happened in Washington. As human beings and citizens in a free democracy, we often have opinions and beliefs that are in opposition. Debate over those opinions is healthy. Our Congress was about to embark on just that kind of debate when it was attacked. When debate devolves into a demand that my way is the only way and we discount not only the other’s beliefs, but that individual as a person, then self-centeredness replaces God-centeredness and prayer becomes hollow.
Sadly, all too often when asked to pray, we allow the recitation of the prayers to be the end. But remember, I said prayer without action is incomplete. As we all pray this Sunday and in the days to come, may we resolve to make sure our life is a living testimony to those prayers. Instead of only listening to those who agree with us and discounting those who do not, let’s make a point of trying to see and understand both sides of an issue. We then can debate the merits of that issue, and not turn our differences of opinion into personal attacks. Let us not only pray for racial justice, but when we witness instances of injustice, speak up and offer support to those who have been victimized. And concerning the virus, let us listen to our medical experts and even if we might not fully understand or believe in mask-wearing and vaccination, not make that a political matter but participate for the greater good of all the community so that we may eradicate this attack on us all.
When I was younger, at church camp we all made bracelets that said “What would God have us to do?” I no longer wear that bracelet, but its message is so emblazoned in my heart that I hear it in everything I do.
And so, my sisters and brothers, pray with me this Sunday the following prayers. But then ask God to show you what you may do to give action to the praying. May God bless you in the doing to God’s work.
Following the example of our Presiding Bishop, I ask that all of our congregations have special prayers this Sunday for peace in our nation. Drawing from our book of Common Prayer, these are the prayers Presiding Bishop Curry recommends:
Save your people, Lord, and bless your inheritance;
Govern and uphold us now and always.
Day by day we bless you;
We praise your name forever.
Lord, keep us from sin today;
Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy.
Lord, show us your love and mercy;
For we put our trust in you.
In you, Lord, is our hope;
And we shall never hope in vain.
– Morning Prayer II, Book of Common Prayer, p. 98
Let us pray:
Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered together under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one God and Creator of us all; to whom be dominion and glory, now and forever.
– For Peace, Book of Common Prayer, p. 815
Oh God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your son. Look now with compassion on the entire human family; and particularly this part of the family, in the United States, and those in our nation’s capital; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
– For the Human Family, Book of Common Prayer, p. 815
On this day and at this moment, we pray for our nation. We ask God to heal us, to show us the way to healing, to show us the way to be one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
For ever and ever.
(The Rt. Rev.) Kenneth L. Price, Jr.
Bishop in the Diocese of Southern Ohio