A prayer for Sunday morning

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Lord, it gets harder to pray these prayers.

You must have noticed how I struggle. How could you miss it?

I stand on Sunday morning, I face my congregation, I do my best to look strong and confident, and I say, “Let us pray.”

And then I wonder what I should say. What is there to say?

Sometimes I think of the week just ended. Do I begin with Istanbul? But then I think people must be tired of hearing about that. And besides, it’s so depressing. Forty-one more deaths? We come to worship to have our spirits lifted, not to be reminded of the latest bombing, shooting, attack, massacre, disaster, or whatever. Frankly, I lose track of them. Weren’t we just talking about Orlando, or Brussels, or Paris, or Baghdad, or Kabul, or was it Mogadishu?

There are so many, Lord. We are no longer shocked. We have become numb. We hear the news and think, “Not again.” It’s hard to feel anything anymore.

Forgive us.

Other times – and I know this should happen more often than it does – I suddenly remember where I am. I remember that I am standing in your presence, your holy and majestic presence. I am speaking to you, the one who created everything out of nothing. And I am leading your people in prayer. I am praying on their behalf, and I know they are counting on me to get it right, to say what needs to be said, to express what is on their minds and in their hearts.

When I remember where I am, and who is listening, it’s then that I can’t go on. It’s then that I realize how inadequate I am to the task, how pathetic my words must sound. They certainly sound pathetic to me.

Forgive me.

Almost as an afterthought I remember to thank you for what you have given to me – to all of us – and I even name a few things, but the truth is, everything we have is a gift from you, all of it, every last thing. We are blessed people.

When I have said everything I can think to say, I say, “Thank you.”

Because I am thankful.

Most of the time.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers.

And hear my prayer.

(Photo: Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem)

About Doug

I have been a writer ever since fifth grade when I won second prize in a “prose and poetry” contest. I am also a Presbyterian pastor, and for several years toward the end of my career I lived and worked in Zürich, Switzerland. I am now retired and live just north of Holland, Michigan, along the lake.

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10 Responses to A prayer for Sunday morning

  1. Jeffrey Edwards July 3, 2016 at 8:59 am #

    I love the photo on this week’s blog. It is relevant. A picture tells a story, congruent and genuine with where the photographer is spiritually and psychologically. Start there. You will not go wrong.

    • Doug July 3, 2016 at 2:39 pm #

      Thanks for the comment, Jeff. I used an old photo, but as you guessed it expressed what I’m feeling today. Am just beginning to realize the power and meaning of the photos we take.

      • Jeffrey Edwards July 3, 2016 at 6:15 pm #

        Your photos are very expressive, and I am sure you know, your feelings about the world’s terrible problems are not alone. I pray for peace everyday, and have deep feelings about Where is God, as does Diana Butler Bass. It is hard to stay Grounded these days.

  2. Kathy Benson July 3, 2016 at 3:40 pm #

    I feel your words today deep in my bones.

    Find myself needing to trust more than ever : He has a plan. And He is good.

    Thank you, Doug, for your insight. Our family misses and thinks of you often.

    • Doug July 5, 2016 at 4:29 pm #

      Kathy, I wish we could plan one more worship service together. Will never forget. Best to you and your family.

  3. Andrew Gifford July 3, 2016 at 6:48 pm #

    Thank Doug, on the eve of the 4th of July I find myself struggling with similar thoughts, and preached today on how we need to seek Christ’s heart amongst all the senseless killing in the world.

    • Doug July 5, 2016 at 4:30 pm #

      You have the heart of a pastor. I hope you trust your instincts.

  4. Kelley July 3, 2016 at 7:48 pm #

    Where is God in all the violence? It makes me think of the Bette Midler song “From a Distance” Does God see everything from that perspective? Is God even able to fathom the pain humans are capable of inflicting on each other? Or is it like one of us looking at an ant hill?? We know they are a colony with some organization, but that’s about it.

  5. Paul July 4, 2016 at 11:05 pm #

    Doug, I remember back in 2003 almost 30,000 people died in an earthquake in Iran. While the US and many countries sent aid, there wasn’t a mention or a whisper of a prayer in our churches. We are fortunate to live in first world comfort, pretty oblivious of the struggles of the other four fifths of humanity.

    • Doug July 4, 2016 at 11:36 pm #

      Hi, Paul. It’s good to hear from you. I can’t help but mention that terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels seem to get far more media attention (like 24-hour, non-stop coverage) than attacks in places like Baghdad, where just this weekend at least 150 people. We not only live in first world comfort, but our focus seems to be limited to the first world as well. Makes me think of “to whom much is given, much will be required.”