Words for the Congregation


Pew and Stained Glass

Photo from Stock.Xchng

by David Sparks

It was my turn to offer the pastoral prayer in our church on Sunday and I wondered how the prayer in Pastoral Prayers to Share Year C would work out in practice. The Monday before the service, I looked at the prayer for the third Sunday after Epiphany and found that it was based on the beginning of the mission of Jesus (Luke 4:18,19).

“The spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor.

He has chosen me to proclaim liberty to the captives

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to set free the oppressed,

and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save his people.”

The prayer in the book follows the basic pattern of the Bible reading:

Prayers for the world – good news to the poor

Prayers for the suffering – liberty to the captives

Prayers for the church – recovery of sight for the blind

Prayers for ourselves – God’s salvation.

In the published prayer I had taken the words of Jesus and made them the words of the congregation: “God’s Spirit is upon us. We are chosen to bring good news to the poor.”

The final words of each section challenge the pray-ers to get involved: “To take a stand with the poor is to risk rejection. Are we ready to take that risk?”

Yes, there would have to be some changes but the basic structure of the prayer in the book would work fine for Sunday.

“Good news for the poor…” I kept the phrase in mind as the week went along. There was fighting in the African nation of Mali, civilians displaced and killed. On Wednesday I watched a program on the Discovery Channel about the challenges of women working for low wages and giving birth in the impoverished nation of Sierra Leone. I remembered a conversation with a friend about the difficulty of persons with low incomes getting accommodation in our town. I knew that these situations needed to be included in the “Prayers for our World” section.

The same day by day awareness of current realities and the need to amend the prayer accordingly held true for the “Prayers for the Suffering” section. I had been talking to our local MP last year about the need to give adequate treatment to mentally ill prisoners, and there had been an inquest about a prisoner with mental health problems who had strangled herself. I added, “Prisoners languishing in jail.”

There was a television news report about a plane crash in the Antarctic so I added a phrase about that and on Sunday morning when a report on the radio came in about a terrible night club fire and panic I made mention of that situation in the section about the bereaved.

In the book the first two sections looked like this:

God’s Spirit is upon us. We are chosen to bring good news to the poor.

To support those who are struggling to get by with low-paying work.

To encourage those who are out of work because of recession or because they are challenged physically or mentally.

To speak out for those struggling to work normally in spite of family illness or marriage problems.

To stand beside those who have exposed unsafe working conditions and lost their jobs as a result.

To take a stand with the poor is to risk rejection.

We are ready to take the risk.

God’s Spirit is upon us. We are sent to proclaim liberty to the captives.

Persons in the grip of financial challenge search for a way through their stressful situation.

Prisoners languishing in jail without friendship or adequate counseling search for outside support.

Residents of care homes without family members to visit them need someone to take an interest.

Chronically-ill patients are in need of persons who will visit them regularly. We bring before our compassionate God those we know in our families, friendship circles, and faith community who are imprisoned by their personal circumstances (time of silent reflection).

We bring before our compassionate God those who are held captive by their unresolved grief for a loved one (time of silent reflection).

To stand with the captives is to risk rejection.

We are ready to take that risk.

I pasted the 3rd Sunday in Epiphany prayer from the book into a Word file, saved it as “pastoral prayer jan 26 13”  and modified words and phrases  in the original as the week went by. The Prayers for our World and Prayers for the Suffering sections finally looked like this:

God’s Spirit is upon us. We are chosen to bring good news to the poor.

To support refugees whose way of life has been destroyed by the fighting in Mali and to support women who labour in Sierra Leone for $3 a day.

To speak out for those struggling to work normally in spite of family illness or marriage problems.

To support those low income families in our town who lack adequate housing.

To take a stand with the poor is to risk indifference and rejection.

Are we ready to take the risk?

God’s Spirit is upon us. We are sent to proclaim liberty to the captives.

Prisoners languishing in jail without friendship or adequate counseling, especially those who are mentally sick.

Residents of care homes without family members to visit them, who need one person to take an interest.

Chronically-ill patients who need someone to visit them regularly.

We bring before our compassionate God those we know in our families, friendship circles, and this church family who feel imprisoned by their personal circumstances (time of silent reflection).

We bring before our compassionate God those who are held captive by their unresolved grief for a loved one (time of silent reflection). And we pray for the families of those who died in that plane crash in the Antarctic and for the families of those who died in the terrible night club fire in Brazil.

To stand with the captives is to risk indifference and rejection.

Are we ready to take that risk?

The other two sections were similarly modified.

I felt good about the process, which followed the one I had outlined in the “Preparing to Offer Pastoral Prayer” section of the book. It worked for me and I was able to offer the prayer confidently at the morning service at Summerland United.

David Sparks was educated theologically in England and Canada and has served for 30 years with The United Church of Canada. David is the author of two lectionary series: Prayers to Share  and Pastoral Prayers to Share. Both have been welcomed and widely used in North America and Europe and further afield in India and Australia.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Categories: David Sparks, Featured, Peace, Peace, Justice, and Equality, People, Prayer, Religion, Spiritual Growth

Subscribe

Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: