Lord, your early followers, suffered for their faith.
And there are many around the world today persecuted for their beliefs.
For them, faith is a daily encounter,
A step-by-step acknowledgement of your presence and provision.
But here we gather in safety and in peace,
And we take our freedom and our provisions for granted.
We sing and celebrate with laughter and delight;
Disconnected from the pain of the world around us.
Lord, it’s not always intentional;
But our constant smiles, our positive thinking and our happy talk
Often act as barriers to honest sharing.
Our faith seems like a series of placards condemning others to silence:
“No frowning”, we seem to say.
“No doubting”, “No sadness here”, “No pain allowed”.
And the suffering is hidden, and the pain is carried alone.
Lord, open our hearts to the burdens people carry.
We pray especially for those who grieve.
Some grieve the loss of a loved one,
While others grieve the loss of love;
Some have lost their health and independence,
Others, the opportunity to work and their sense of dignity.
Few of us are abused for our faith, Lord,
But there are many who experience violence every day.
Theirs is a silent and lonely path—
Forced to hide the abuse they dare not share;
Love broken, twisted and bitter.
Lord, open our eyes to each other’s pain;
Make us welcoming to the hurting world around us.
Transform our faith and our fellowship, Lord,
That our joy and delight becomes not a barrier but a sign of welcome.
That our gathering is not behind closed doors and unwelcoming placards,
But offers friendship and open arms, inviting and welcoming
The hurt, the helpless and the homeless.
Transform us, Lord, as you transformed the woman at the well.
Transform us from unthinking, lifeless worshipers
Into vital evidence of your grace for our community.
Transform us, as you transformed Nicodemus,
From an intellectual understanding of faith,
Into a practical caring for the body of Christ
In its pain and suffering and death.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
- Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi (mountainprayer.wordpress.com)