Permission to respond?

The events of the last week have created an interesting time travel event in my world. I have had a lot of thoughts, feelings, and conversations that are reminiscent of those I experienced just under a decade ago, when terribly dark events took place on a day memorialized as 9/11.

In those days I still felt I needed permission to feel some of the things I did, compassion and sadness over the eternal consequences for some men who did atrocious things. As good men prayed that God would “hunt them down like the dogs they are,” I felt myself hoping even one would turn to Jesus before their death blow. I grieved over the thirst for violence and revenge that sprang up in my world, especially among those who seek to follow the way of Another Kingdom. I felt things that seemed dangerous, and I wondered if I was on the verge of some kind of road of spiritual/national heresy that would lead to tar, feathers, or a team of horses. At the same time, someone I loved was set to be among the first soldiers in Baghdad in the days to follow; I prayed daily for him and for every person (regardless of faith or nationality) who would be in danger over the course of the ensuing war.

When I received the news on Monday that Osama bin Laden had been killed, I realized I have changed a lot in the last ten years. I feel many of the same feelings; I am having many of the same thoughts. But I don’t feel any resulting shame, or fear, or concern for my sanity. I don’t feel I need permission to feel sad, to regret that these things have had to happen, to wrestle with what justice and love and mercy and vengeance mean in the light of Christ and the Sermon on the Mount and the “third way.” My hope is that I am becoming more like Jesus; my trust is in my faith community to help me when I am not.

What follows is part liturgy, part script, part prayer guide. I struggle to gather my thoughts about these events, which makes prayer very difficult. Yet prayer seems the only sure response I can imagine. Monday night a handful of people met to pray, and this helped us move through the time with some focus. The opening and closing prayers we prayed together. The bullet points gave suggestions, and the closing prayer of each section was prayed by one person. Before the final closing prayer we opened the time for any other prayers people felt led to express. Please feel free to use this in small groups, alone, or in any other gathering. My hope is that it helps us to fashion a response that honors God and serves His people.

Open

Lamb of God
You take away the sins of the world
Have mercy on us.
Grant us peace.

For the unbearable toil of our sinful world,
We plead for remission.
For the grief of absence from our brothers and sisters,
We plead for your comfort.
For the scandalous presence of death in your Creation,
We plead for the resurrection.

Lamb of God
You take away the sins of the world
Have mercy on us.
Grant us peace.

Prayers for victims

  • Victims of terror and oppressions everywhere
  • Victims of bin Laden’s rule in Iraq
  • Victims of the 9/11 attacks
  • Victims of the wars in the Middle East, past and present

Jesus Christ, Son of God, you came into our world to heal our broken places, bind up our hurts, and set us free from the bondage and death of this world. Today we remember all those who have yet to experience your redemption and restoration, including those among us. Cause us to be the incarnation of Your comfort to those who mourn. Jesus we ask that your Spirit would move among your Church throughout the world to heal, deliver, and set free. Amen.

Prayers for the coming days

  • Americans and others traveling in high-risk areas
  • Government leaders
  • Peace between Muslims and American Christians

Holy Spirit of God, we fall on Your mercy. We lift to You the uncertain future that faces us all. We confess our fear in the face of uncertainty; in your mercy teach us to never fear those who can only harm the body. We ask that You would extend Your wisdom to leaders across the globe; we place our trust in Your sovereign power. Animate Your Church in every nation toward active participation in mending the rifts created by the systems, wars, and injustices of humanity. Show us what we can do in these days to bear the image of Christ into these hard places. Remind us that You blessed the peacemakers, calling them children of God. Grant us peace, in our hearts and in our hands extended to your world. Amen.

Prayers for the Church

  • That we would become desperate for the heart and mind of Christ
  • The Church in the Middle East to receive comfort, peace, and protection
  • The Church in the West to glorify God in our responses by seeking the heart of Christ
  • The Church everywhere to be a presence of nonviolent justice against all forms of terror and oppression
  • That we would seek reconciliation, to live at peace with all men and women

Father of the Universe, we ask that You would teach us what it means that our fight is never against fellow creatures, made with our same flesh and blood. Show us what it means to fight spiritual battles. Break our hearts for the depths of deception into which men like Osama bin Laden have fallen; break our hearts for victory of Your enemy in acts of oppression and fear. Grant that we might see with Your eyes, think Your thoughts, and feel what Your heart feels in these days. Give us the courage to love in the face of all kinds of hatred, that those who hate might be won over by Your love. Amen.

Close

Almighty God, Father of all humanity,

We fall on your mercy in this time of struggle

Lead us from death to life,

From deception to truth,

Lead us from despair to hope,

From fear to trust

Lead us from hatred to love,

From war to peace

Let peace fill our hearts, Your Church, and Your world.

Amen.

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2 Comments

  1. May 11, 2011 at 9:17 am

    […] See the full prayer guide on Mandy’s blog » […]

  2. May 24, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    It’s interesting how faith gets mushed up with politics and cultural norms and we can’t see the difference sometimes. I read somewhere that once upon a time Christ preached the Sermon on the Mount; ever since then, Christianity has been an attempt to circumvent the Sermon on the Mount. Pretty sad. And we’re all taught to be so subservient. “The sin of rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,” I remember hearing in my youth. I’m glad you’re enough of a rebel and a nonconformist to question yucky politics, and I’m glad you no longer feel you have to apologize for it. 🙂


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