We are in a time of turmoil and it’s sending some of us to our knees ( at least those of us who can get up again): the death toll now over 100,000 , unemployment reaching staggering numbers, a death resulting from police brutality and protests in our streets.
What to pray? How to pray? Where is God in all this?
During Lent we focused on God’s promise in Jeremiah: …”when you call upon me and come and pray to me I will hear you.” And now we’ve arrived at Pentecost, unable to gather together in our sanctuary and pray together. Assembled in our sanctuary we prayed first the Prayer of Connection, a prayer to open our worship experience praising God. Then a Prayer Seeking God’s Grace, admitting to God whatever it is that separates us from God. The Prayer for Illumination helped to focus our listening as scripture is read and explained. Then we prayed together our Lord’s Prayer following the Prayers of Thanksgiving, Intercession and Petition.
Oh but there’s more prayer in our service, right? Yes, much more. These are just the ones we pray in unison, together in one voice. And that’s what we’re missing. Praying together is sharing our common experience, our common longing and desires, expressing our relationship with one another and with God. That’s what it means to be a praying community of faith.
So, now we’re on our own and need to turn to scripture and the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us in the way of prayer, perhaps following the advice of Paul to the Thessalonians: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances (I Thess.5:16-18). While we are away from one another, “If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. God’s Spirit does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.” (Romans 8:26 , The Message)
While we are separated from one another, how do we experience God? How do we allow ourselves to be led into the loving, healing presence of God? I am finding, in this time of crisis, that an old familiar prayer keeps me grounded. Known as the Serenity prayer it is attributed to theologian Reinhold Niebuhr during another time of American exigency, the Great Depression and World War II:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
The courage to change the things I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference. Amen
Rev. Lorrie Skinner