A Common Prayer

I’m struggling these days. I’m trying to process the attack last Sunday at All Saint’s Church in Peshawar. The news reports are still trickling in. It’s not being widely reported on here in the US. Most of my news is coming from others who love Pakistan. We are sharing what we can piece together. Others who’ve grown up in Pakistan, or those who’ve grown a heart for Pakistan, are also trying to come to grips with it all. I have this stir fry of responses going on inside me….a collage of sorts….a patchwork of griefs so deep, so difficult to articulate.

And the weird incongruences of it all are never more apparent than they are in my facebook newsfeed. The discordances are perpetually in my face! My emotions are yanked violently as I read everything from extreme compassion to uber-ignorance; from hyper activism to naïve self-absorption. It’s more than my mind can manage; much more than my heart can reconcile.

I find myself wanting to scream at my computer screen, “Do you people not care?”

A church full of people went to services last Sunday to worship. I’m sure their motives were as varied as the shoes they took off at the entrance to the building. Some went because they always have; some went because their mothers told them to; others went to catch a glimpse of the young handsome medical student who sits quietly on the other side of the room. Others sincerely went to worship, to remember their God, to give honour and praise to His name, to tell him thank you for his faithfulness and His presence with them. Whatever brought them there, to the ancient old white building in the heart of that ancient old city, Peshawar, they were there, participating with the world wide Church, worshiping God.

And what happened after Church last Sunday is incomprehensible. A pair of suicide bombers met them as they filed out. Over 80 people died. Many more were seriously harmed.

It’s too much to understand. It’s too painful. There’s too much loss, too much sorrow.

However life goes on. And life here, on this side of the ocean, is really unaffected by what happens in other places, no matter how tragic. Innocent worshipers are sacrificed senselessly, window shoppers in a mall are murdered, an earth-shifting earthquake kills many, wounds more.

How can we wrap our souls around the extremes of such devastation when all the while we sip our lattes, adjust our thermostats to accommodate the arrival of Autumn and scroll through facebook?

With childhood friends quoting scripture about martyrs and other friends boast cooking chicken and noodles; others remind us to pray for the yet grieving in Kenya in light of the situation at the Westgate Shopping Centre; while still others quip on runs and marathons and vacations and back to school lunch ideas….it seems to me the world no longer makes any sense.

And yet life does go on. Perhaps my facebook friends are in just the same soul space I’m in—maybe they too are agonizing over the injustices and evils in the world. Perhaps this is their way of coping with the unbearable weights of mercy and empathy. I think Hope demands that life goes on. Hope longs for chicken and noodles. Hope is comforted by the idea that normal life can still happen somewhere. Hope delights in grandbabies being born, six year olds starting school and lovers marrying. It helps to know that, by God’s grace, we can continue living, in the face of the dying—not without caring, but almost because we do care and we’re trying to fan what little Hope that we can.

The only place I dare unburden my soul in all of this is in prayer…but I don’t even trust myself to begin to utter those prayers. My petitions are gibberish. Father forgive me, I know not what I do nor what I say.

During times like this I turn to the ancient, foundational, solid prayers that the church around the world prays. I turn to the Book of Common Prayer and I join in with the many across countries and over the march of time. I pour out my soul, with its confusions, and internal chaos, with its doubts and questions, with queries and suspicions, with judgments and deep despair –and I pray:

In Times of Conflict

O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us,
in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront
one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work
together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen

For the Oppressed

Look with pity, O heavenly Father, upon the people in this
(world) who live with injustice, terror, disease, and death as
their constant companions. Have mercy upon us. Help us to
eliminate our cruelty to these our neighbors. Strengthen those
who spend their lives establishing equal protection of the law
and equal opportunities for all through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

For those we Love

Almighty God, we entrust all who are dear to us to thy
never-failing care and love, for this life and the life to come,
knowing that thou art doing for them better things than we
can desire or pray for; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And this Sunday I’ll pray for courage for those who wish to worship again….

On Sunday

O God our King, by the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
on the first day of the week, you conquered sin, put death to
flight, and gave us the hope of everlasting life: Redeem all
our days by this victory; forgive our sins, banish our fears,
make us bold to praise you and to do your will; and steel us
to wait for the consummation of your kingdom on the last
great Day; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

22 thoughts on “A Common Prayer

  1. We are allowed to express rage in our prayers. More than half of the psalms are laments laced with rage, and the psalms were the book of common prayer for Jesus and his disciples. If we believe God is both angry and sad about these things, we should enter into His feelings and thoughts as we pray. Don’t apologize for the rage, sister.

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  2. The world climate and in America is changing so quickly that it is surreal at times. Lord have mercy on the precious Christians who are being killed and help them at such heinous times.

    I loved the prayers you shared. Help us Lord. We need you so much. More and more as the days race by.

    Good post!

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  3. Robynn, Your post and prayers resonated with me, because a couple of days ago, I slipped into raging against everyone and anyone who might listen, but found only one dared “like” my post rant. Perhaps, if I had slept on it, the look in these men’s eyes as they struggled to come to grips with their memories after 365 days of basic human survival…perhaps, if I had prayed, instead of raged. Your post was humbling to me.

    Posted on FB 9/25: “Stumbled upon a National Geographic documentary on a year in the day of the life of a platoon in the Korangal Valley…”Restrepo: Afghan Outpost”. Two channels away is the ridiculous “Naked and Afraid”…the contrast in what the entertainment industry calls “reality tv” vs. the reality of survival in one of the most hostile arenas in modern day wartime, is symbolic of the disconnect between a good part of our nation and how we chose not to recognize those that serve this country every day, in fear of losing their lives, who don’t sleep for fear of seeing what you and I, safe in our homes and in our lives, will never see…unbelievable….”

    Next project: fill a heart-chest.
    Alma y Fe, Elizabeth

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  4. I am on social media less this week than usual and I think it is because of these things you’ve captured. The dichotomy is too much to bear. But you have redeemed it so well – that life goes on. That is beautiful and so non-judgmental, thank you for giving me that space to enter back into when I feel brave enough again. Because I also love a good meal and funny things kids say and running races, those are the chances to celebrate LIFE and I need to do that too.

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    1. Rachel…the funny thing is (not funny, really…) I originally wrote this article without the “And yet life does go on…” paragraph. But I woke up in the night and was mulling it over. What choice do we have? I really was initially judging my facebook friends but in the darkness of night I realized it wasn’t fair. If we truly believe in hope we have to keep on living. I had a Damascus-road moment of insomnia and I was converted. I woke, and rewrote with a deeper humility and a fresh sense of comfort and peace. Thank you for understanding me.

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  5. I didn’t know… I tend to be one of the ignorant. Earlier this week I was looking up information on Nigeria to share with our small group – on Monday (9/21) 142 bodies were found in a town, killed by the same extremist group that attacked the mall in Kenya. I didn’t hear about this in the news even though it was twice as many as were killed in Kenya. The difference was these were Christians and maybe that wasn’t as newsworthy as what happened in Kenya… although equally as appalling. But I tend to be the one who retreats back to my bubble – my happy home, my FB perusing and my first world problems. I pray, but the problems seem so big and I understand so little that I doubt I can really make a difference. Thanks for your post – it’s good to be challenged and reminded that we are part of the bigger church that is in need of our prayers.

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  6. Thank you, Robynn, for this beautiful post that echoes the cries in my own heart. At times when I feel paralyzed by grief or worry, I struggle for words to pray, other than “Please . . .” or “Grace . . .” The prayers you offered will be a part of my spiritual heart-chest. Blessings to you and to all who weep and mourn this day.

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    1. It was hard to write Annie, without slipping into rage…. Jesus stopped me in my self and brought me to some hope and grace…. Thanks for commenting on this one.

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