Amos 8. 4-7; Psalm 113; 1 Timothy 2. 1-7; Luke 16. 1-13
As we continue to mourn the death of our beloved Queen, I offer this week prayers which I hope you will find appropriate, and additional to those circulated officially
We start with a prayer written almost 500 years ago by Ignatius Loyola:
Welcome, Lord, into your calm and peaceful kingdom those who, out of this present life, have departed to be with you; grant them rest and a place with the spirits of the just; and give them the life that knows not age, the reward that passes not away; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Her late Majesty in her Christmas broadcasts increasingly ,referred to her Christian faith and its application to her daily life and that of the nation. George Appleton wrote this prayer which may seem alarming at first but leads on to a reflection of what, I believe, her Majesty was getting at:
O God we thy creatures try to evade the fact of death, and keep it out of mind, yet in our deeper moments, we know it is a warning note, urging us so to die every day to all selfishness and sin, that when the time comes for our final migration, we may take death in our stride because life is so strong within us, as it was in him who was so manifestly thy true Son and so convincingly the prototype of thy finished humanity, even Jesus Christ, thy Son, our brother. Amen
The next prayer was said at a Service of Thanksgiving for a man who served her Majesty with distinction in the early years of her reign
Eternal Lord God, who holdest all souls in life: we beseech thee to shed forth upon thy whole Church in Paradise and on earth the bright beams of thy light and comfort; and grant that we following the good example of those who have loved and served thee here and are now at rest may, at the last enter with them into the fulness of thy unending joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Let’s end my personal tribute with a snippet from Frank Colquhoun which sums it all up:
Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we offer you our praise for all who have lived and died in the faith of your holy name, and especially for her whom we now remember before you with love and thanksgiving
Give us grace to be faithful in the days of our earthly pilgrimage that we may share in the glory of your heavenly kingdom. Amen
PRAYERS FOR OUR QUEEN
Eternal God, our heavenly Father, we bless your holy name for all that you have given us in and through the life of your servant Queen Elizabeth.
We give you thanks:
for her love of family and her gift of friendship;
for her devotion to this nation and the nations of the Commonwealth;
for her grace, dignity and courtesy;
and for her generosity and love of life.
We praise you for:
the courage that she showed in testing times;
the depth and of her Christian faith;
and the witness she bore to it in word and deed.
We pray for our Sovereign Lord the King
and all the Royal Family,
that you might reassure them of your continuing love
and lift them from the depths of grief
into the peace and light of your presence.
Exodus 32.7-14; Psalm 51.1-10; 1 Timothy 1.12-17; Luke 15.1-10
This Sunday is Education Sunday. As the first member of my family to go to university I have always been aware of the value to me (and, I hope, to society) of education to this level. Happily, the tradition is now firmly established with all of our children their spouses and our grandchildren. My involvement with Open the Book at St Barnabas School gives me the challenge of repaying in some measure by helping to provide a Christian foundation to those at the very beginning of their formal education
Almighty God, you are the source of truth
and your Spirit leads us into truth:
may all who teach and all who learn
in our schools, colleges and universities
be set free from everything that might hinder
their search for the truth;
and, finding truth, may they learn to use it
for the good of mankind
and for your greater glory. Amen
(James M Todd)
The lectionary provides a fascinating list this week of people commemorated. Many were establishment figures in their day (Bishops!) I have chosen one, a pagan at birth, a highly successful politician who underwent conversion, was elected Bishop of Carthage and produced prayers for use in his diocese.
The first half of the third century was a period of horrific persecution and he died as a martyr in the year 258. We may not face persecution (other Christians do) but storms and tempests
We pray to you, Lord, with honest hearts, in tune with one another, entreating you with sighs and tears, as befits our humble position – placed as we are between the spiritually weak who have no concern for you, and the saints who stand firm and upright before you.
We pray that you may soon come to us, leading us from darkness to light, oppression to freedom, misery to joy, conflict to peace. May you drive away the storms and tempest of our lives, and bring gentle calm.
We pray that you will care for us, as a father cares for his children. Amen
(St Cyprian of Carthage)
Another establishment figure but of a very different character and background, born in 1098, Hildegard of Bingen became the abbess of a Benedictine foundation. A writer, musician, in fact a polymath, she is treasured for her contribution to Christian thought, music and some intense prayers:
Jesus Christ, the love that gives love,
You are higher than the highest star;
You are deeper than the deepest sea;
You cherish us as your own family;
You embrace us as your own spouse;
You rule over us as your own subjects;
You welcome us as your dearest friend.
Let all the world worship you.
Deuteronomy 30.15-20; Psalm 1; Philemon 1-21; Lukke 14.25-33
Both USPG and the MU remind us that this is the Season of Creation. USPG points out: ’By listening to the voice of all creation, humans from all cultures and sectors of life can be joined in our vocation to care for our common home.’ This is reflected in events in Pakistan, one of the smallest contributors to global warming but the biggest victim so far. The MU prayer for September 9th, and on the same subject, clearly written last year or even earlier prophetically reads:
Lord, help us to be good stewards of creation, to respect the sanctity of life in times of natural disaster, make us ready to take action for our brothers and sisters in difficult parts of the world.
Decades ago, Tim Dudley-Smith had an even keener eye:
Lord, we have found out so much knowledge and yet possess so little wisdom. We pray that in your mercy you will save us from ourselves. Help us to learn the right use of nature no less quickly than we unlock her treasures; and give us hearts and wills made new in Christ, to dedicate your gifts of knowledge to the service of others and to the praise of your name.
From the disturbing thoughts of the suffering of people whose lives have been cut short or face little but hardship, toil and starvation let us turn from human frailty and misery to a Celtic prayer which offers God-given peace and solace at the end of the day in that piercing spirituality that is so characteristic of this kind of intercession
O Christ, Son of the living God,
May your holy angels guard our sleep.
May they watch us as we rest
And hover around our beds.
Let them reveal to us in our dreams
Visions of your glorious truth,
O high Prince of the universe
O high priest of the mysteries.
May no dreams disturb our rest
And no nightmares darken our dreams
May no fears or worries delay
Our willing prompt repose.
May the virtue of our daily work
Hallow our nightly prayers.
May our sleep be deep and soft,
So our work fresh and hard.
Proverbs 25.6-7; Psalm 112; Hebrews 13 1-8, 15-16;Luke 14.1, 7-14
Monica last week, her son Augustine this! What a good job she did in calling on God to sort him out! I have offered this prayer of Augustine’s before but it is truly relevant to the situation in which people all over the world now find themselves that I make no apology for praying it again.
Blessed are all thy saints, O God and King, who have travelled over the tempestuous sea of this mortal life and have made the harbour of peace and felicity. Watch over us who are still in our dangerous voyage; and remember such as lie exposed to the rough storms of trouble and temptations. Frail is our vessel and the ocean is wide; but as in thy mercy thou hast set our course so steer the vessel of our life toward the everlasting shore of peace, and bring us at length to the quiet haven of our heart’s desire, where thou, O our God, are blest, and livest and reignest for ever and ever . Amen
There is a world of difference between the dark-skinned Algerian intellectual that was Augustine and the down-to earth white Bedfordshire tinker also remembered this week, John Bunyan. But both shared an expressive ability to use allegory with great effect. The Collect for August 30 sums up a landsman’s approach to life as compared with one who moved frequently across the Mediterranean:
God of peace
who called your servant John Bunyan
to be valiant for truth:
grant that as strangers and pilgrims
we may at the last rejoice with all Christian people in your heavenly city
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Those of us of more mature years may remember Thora Hird. In a radio interview she introduced us to a prayer offered up by a seventeenth century nun. This extract might have been written yesterday for the likes of me, reaching another anniversary this week!
I dare not ask for improved memory,
but for a growing humility,
and a lessening cocksureness
when my memory seems to clash with the memory of others.
Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken
Keep me reasonably sweet.
I do nor want to be a saint
(some of them are so hard to live with)
but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil.
Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places
And talents in unexpected people.
And give me, O Lord,
The grace to tell them so.
Isaiah 58 9b-14; Psalm 103 1-8; Hebrews 12. 18-29; Luke 13.10-17
In our gospel today the misdirected piety of the synagogue ruler leads Jesus to issue a strong rebuke. The woman with scoliosis put me in mind of a 20th century individual who went through life disabled but was thus strengthened to put suffering of this kind into context – Dick Sheppard spent many years as Vicar of St-Martin-in-the-Fields where he wrote the following life-affirming prayer:
Grant us grace, O Father, not to pass by suffering or joy without eyes to see. Give us understanding and sympathy and guard us from selfishness, that we may enter into the joys and sufferings of others. Use us to gladden and strengthen those who are weak and suffering, that by our lives we may help others to believe and serve thee, and shed forth thy light which is the light of life. Amen
I hope a man may not be accused of either sexism or condescension if he expresses admiration for Monica, mother of Augustine of Hippo. Despite her best, and perhaps over-enthusiastic, efforts Augustine turned away from Christianity. Her tearful efforts to reclaim him for the faith led a bishop to reassure her: ‘It is not possible that the son of so many tears should be lost.’ Her devotion and pertinacity finally prevailed. Her errant son returned to faith and became a leader whose words and thoughts are still treasured today. Here’s her collect:
Faithful God, who strengthened Monica, mother of Augustine, with wisdom and through her patient endurance encouraged him to seek after you: give us the will to persist in prayer that those who stray from you may be brought to faith in your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen
Bishop Donald has told us of his impending retirement. Many of us will be sad to see him leave but know he will not take it amiss if we begin to think and pray about who is to succeed him. The process of selection is long but it is one in which we can play a part, not least by prayer
Lord God our Father, we thank you that, for the last twelve years, your loving care has given us Donald to be our pastor and our friend. As his time with us draws towards its close we ask you for the continuing presence of your Holy Spirit to guide us and all those concerned with the selection of his successor. We rejoice in the rich diversity of worship in this our diocese. Help us to go forward with loving respect one for another and with unity of purpose, seeking only your will to find one fitted for the high office to which he or she is called. We ask this in the name of the Supreme Shepherd of the sheep, Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen
Jeremiah 23. 23-29; Psalm 83; Hebrews 11.29-12.2; Luke 12.49-56.
Two very contrasting people feature in our lectionary this week. The first is the Blessed Virgin Mary, a woman celebrated for her piety and readiness to do God’s will with quiet determination:
in your Mother, Blessed Mary,
we see a model of devotion
of willing acceptance
of your will and call;
fill us with your grace
that we may bring to birth
the fruit of your love
and follow in your steps
in passion and glory. Amen
Bernard of Clairvaux, a thousand years later, was the leading light of the Cistercian order of monks whose austere approach is reflected in the beautiful, spare nature of their architecture. This leads me and many others to quiet meditation, whereas Bernard was in the forefront as an aggressive leader in a failed Crusade. Many of his prayers are forceful, but Edward Caswall produced the most popular translation of a hymn showing another side to Bernard’s character:
Jesu, the very thought of thee
With sweetness fills my breast:
But sweeter far thy face to see.
And in thy presence rest.
Jesu, our only joy be thou,
As thou our prize wilt be;
Jesus, be thou our glory now,
And through eternity.
In our present crisis the following prayer needs no introduction
All-seeing. all-loving God, we find ourselves in difficult times. We are surrounded with material riches and comfort beyond the imaginings of so many living in the world today. Yet we have our share of the poor, the weak, the old, the homeless who are faced with a season soon to be upon us when such prosperity will be far from their thoughts, when the chance of warmth, food or shelter seem far beyond them. Through the power and strength of your Holy Spirit guide our government and our society to find the will and the means to protect and care for them, to carry them through to a place where they may enjoy peace and stability in their lives.
We ask this in the name of our loving Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen
Genesis15. 1-6; Psalm 33.12-22; Hebrews 11.1-3, 8-16; Luke 12: 32-40
Many people have been moved by the sad case of Archie Battersbee and the efforts of his parents to press doctors and nurses to maintain life support in face of a bleak but honest diagnosis. Archie and his family are rightly in our thoughts and prayers, but spare a thought also for those who have discharged the responsibility of looking after him during these past weeks. They are not unfeeling nor are the lawyers and judges. Neville Smith, as a long-serving hospital chaplain, gained experience of medical ethics and the stresses encountered not only by the ‘victims’ but also by all the others involved:
Lord God the Holy Spirit,
source of all wisdom and truth, we pray that you will guide all those who have to take decisions with far-reaching consequences for people in their care, in their use of valuable resources
on the life of the hospital.
Grant them the gift of wisdom, Enable them to discern truth so that amid confusion and conflict
They may be able to choose the better way
for all concerned, and be at peace in themselves and with you.
Our lectionary includes this week a woman held in high regard during her lifetime and ever since – Mary Sumner. As founder of the Mothers’ Union, she spoke fearlessly in a male-dominated society but secured the support of far-sighted bishops. Her personal prayer looks outward from the Lord that she worshipped to the society in which she moved
All this day, O Lord,
let me touch as many lives as possible for thee;
and every life I touch, do thou by thy spirit quicken,
whether through the word I speak,
the prayer I breathe,
or the life I live. Amen.
As the theme of this week’s readings is faith this prayer from one Father Andrew builds on what Mary Sumner offers:
‘Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief’ but let no part of it stay in me. If my life brings me darkness, help me to meet it with faith; if pain, with courage, if bereavement, with hope; if joy, with gratitude; all things with love and patience. So let my life indeed be an expression of my faith. Amen.
Ecclesiastes 1.2, 12-14,18-23;Psalm 49.1-12;Colossians 3.1-11; Luke 12. 13-21
There are two individuals associated with this week, Oswald and Ignatius of Loyola both of whom could attract criticism. Oswald was, in effect, a war lord but, after a vision, he created a strong Christian ethos in Northumbria. He invited Aidan from Ireland and gave him Lindisfarne as his bishopric. Bede tells stories of his care for the poor and his active Christian witness and leadership. The Collect for August 5th rightly points us to his strong, positive witness for us to emulate
Lord God almighty who so kindled the faith of King Oswald with your Spirit that he set up the sign of the cross in his kingdom and turned his people to the light of Christ: grant that we, being fired by the same Spirit, may always bear our cross before the world and be found faithful servants if the gospel, through Jesus Christ your Son, our lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
Ignatius of Loyola founded the Roman Catholic order familiarly known as the Jesuits. In the Counter-Reformation he helped lead the aggressive battle against the Protestants. That struggle is long past and the order is respected for much hard work in the world of today. Ignatius, as part of his Spiritual Exercises, created a prayer familiar to many and widely used not just by Jesuits:
Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds; to toil and not to seek for rest; to labour and not seek any reward, save that of knowing that I do your will. Amen
After the conflicts I have referred to above let’s have an evening prayer of peace;
Heavenly Father, I come to you at the ending of the day
With a thankful heart to commit myself and those I love to your care and protection for the coming night.
Lift from our minds every burden, every anxiety, every fear,
And in your great mercy give us sleep and rest
to fit us for the duties of another day.
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen
Genesis 18.20-32; Psalm 138; Colossians 2.6-15; Luke 11.1-13
In the Church of England we are now in what is called ‘Ordinary Time’ I have always thought this a strange description because, since the Resurrection of Christ, do we not all live in Extraordinary Time? The season does, however, give us the opportunity to look further afield in our prayer life…
This Diocese of Peterborough is twinned with the diocese of Seoul in South Korea and an anniversary occurs this week, the 70th of the Korean Armistice. This means that North and South have been at war for the last 70 years! In the USPG prayer booklet this week the prayers represent efforts to seek God’s help to achieve a positive peaceful way forward for a country split in two for generations;
We pray for the people of Korea. May divisions in the country be resolved in a fair and peaceful manner.
Let us pray for the success of the Korea Peace Appeal. May the world take notice of this campaign and renew global efforts for peace.
A person remembered this week is William Wilberforce. Our Collect writes of ‘Jesus freeing us from the slavery of sin’ and of Wilberforce toiling ‘against the sin of slavery.’ We have a legacy which is less than comfortable, beyond that we are now faced with what is called ‘modern slavery’ This takes many forms such as some car washes, nail bars, cannabis farms and agricultural work. The Clewer Initiative is an Anglican organisation raising awareness at local level of the existence of this form of slavery and trafficking. They have produced the following prayer about it.
who sees the unseen and notices the unnoticed, help each of us to hear the Hidden Voices of those who pray for release from slavery and exploitation, so that we may give ourselves more fully to the service of your saving love, and be strengthened together as agents of your healing and hope, through Jesus Christ, who himself came to serve as a slave, so as to bring freedom and grace to all. Amen
Having looked outwards, let’s look to ourselves with a prayer by a man called Eugene Bersier, a Protestant pastor who worked in Paris during the 19th century and was involved with both rich and poor
O God, from whom we have received life, and all earthly blessings vouchsafed to give unto us each day what we need. Give unto all of us strength to perform faithfully our appointed tasks, bless the work of our hands and of our minds. Grant that we may ever serve thee, in sickness and in health, in necessity and in abundance; sanctify our joys and our trials and give us grace to seek first thy kingdom and its righteousness, in the sure and certain faith that all else shall be added unto us; through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord and Saviour. Amen
Heavenly Father, who sees the unseen and notices the
help each of us to hear the Hidden Voices of those
who pray for release from slavery and exploitation,
so that we may give ourselves more fully to the service of your saving love,
and be strengthened together as agents of your healing and hope,
through Jesus Christ,
who himself came to serve as a slave,
so as to bring freedom and grace to all. Amen