Isaiah 49.1-7; Psalm 40. 1-11; I Corinthians 1.1-9; John 1.29-42
Epiphany is a season that seems to inspire hymn writers and prayer makers alike. A simple example from my childhood to a simple tune called ‘Dix’, may be familiar to you:
As with gladness men of old
Did the guiding star behold
As with joy they hailed its light
Beaming onward, beaming bright,
So, most gracious Lord, may we
Evermore be led to thee.
Simplicity is valuable indeed if it leads people to God.
The Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East offers a simple prayer with the subtle twist of seeking inclusion for the not so simple:
O God, who by a star guided the wise men to the worship of your Son; we pray you to lead to yourself the wise and the great of every land, that unto you every knee may bow, and every thought be brought into captivity through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Frank Colquhoun hits another nail on the head with this offering:
Lord Jesus, may your light shine upon our way,
as once it guided the steps of the magi:
that we too may be led into your presence and worship you,
the Child of Mary,
the Word of the Father,
the King of nations,
the Saviour of mankind to whom be glory for ever. Amen
This week we have been hearing about Christians Against Poverty, an organisation devoting its energies to providing practical solutions to many of the problems bearing down day by day on those who are in debt. It is a charity that received strong and consistent support from Bishop Donald throughout his time with us. Whilst CAP may issue their own prayers the vagaries of computers are denying me access so I have found a more general one which conveys something of what they are about.
Forgive us, Father, that we are so eager to make our own lives
comfortable while others must suffer hunger and want.
Bless the little which we have done, and multiply it, in your mercy, to serve the needs of many unknown to us, but known and loved by you: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Psalms 96,97; Isaiah 49.1-13; John 4.7-26
There is an Epiphany hymn with effective words by Bishop John Wordsworth – the last line of the refrain “God in man made manifest” – but can someone please find a better tune for me ?
To make manifest here is the action of God working through the faith of those receiving the message who then perceive what God has done. This offers the perfect formula for intercessions: God acts, we acknowledge and then we ask to be led to perform.
We start with a traditional format, but well marshalled and with satisfying metaphors:
O God, our Father, Creator of the universe, whose Son, Jesus Christ, came to our world, pour your Holy Spirit upon your Church, that all the people of our world, being led through the knowledge of your truth to worship you, may offer the gold of intellect, the frankincense of devotion and the myrrh of discipline to him who is with you and the Holy Spirit who liveth and reigneth for ever, one God, world without end. Amen
(Church of Sri Lanka)
The following digs more deeply into the human condition:
God of gold, we seek your glory: the richness that transforms our drabness into colour,
and brightens our dullness with vibrant light; your wonder and joy at the heart of all life.
God of incense, we offer you our prayer; our spoken and unspeakable longings, our questioning of truth,
our search for your mystery deep within.
God of myrrh, we cry out to you in our suffering:
the pain of all our rejections and bereavements,
our baffled despair at undeserved suffering,
our rage at continuing injustice;
and we embrace you, God-with-us,
in our wealth, our yearning, our anger and loss.
The human condition always seems to involve conflict and disagreement. Currently this is painfully obvious both internationally and within our own country. Our time is never wasted if we pray about it! We can start with Bishop Harries and take it on from there: Russia, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Somalia, Israel, Palestine…The NHS, Royal Mail the railways, strikes generally…
God, grant that now, even at this late hour, you would unlock our two prickly prides, our two warring wills, our two opposing forces, and open the way to a negotiated settlement which we cannot find but which assuredly resides in you, for you are the source of both justice and peace; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen
Isaiah 7.10-16; Psalm 80.1-7,17-19; Romans 1. 1-7; Matthew 1. 8-25
It’s happened again! Lives of refugees lost in the English Channel. You may find the following prayer doesn’t fit with your political thinking but, having crossed that stretch of water many times in safety on well-appointed ferries, I despair that the declared priority of our government is to keep out many refugees whether in flimsy boats or not and offer them no alternative:
Lord, I know I should pray for our rulers, and statesmen and women, but they seem hopeless and beyond praying for. Yet I know quite well we have to pray for those who despitefully use us, and you never thought people were so bad as to be impossible to save. But didn’t you have your doubts about the Pharisees? Probably you prayed about them a lot, but the Bible doesn’t tell us how.
Teach us how to pray for politicians and give me faith to keep on praying in the hopes that you will give them wisdom and eyes to see beyond their own party to the wider world and encourage them to work for the good of all mankind. Amen
Now for your seasonal comfort zone…
we thank you for the gift of your Son,
whose birth at Bethlehem
we now prepare to celebrate,
May our hearts and our homes
always be open to him,
that he may dwell with us for ever
and we may gladly serve him all our days,
to the honour and glory of your name. Amen
We give you thanks, O God our Father, for the gift of your Son Jesus Christ, whose coming into this world was proclaimed by prophets of old and who was born for us in lowliness and poverty at Bethlehem.
As we make ready once again to celebrate his birth, fill our hearts with your own joy and peace, and enable us to welcome him as our Saviour; so that when he comes again in his glory and majesty, he may find in us a people
prepared for himself, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
Isaiah 35.1-10; Psalm 146 or The Magnificat; James 5. 7-10; Matthew 11. 2-11
We get to an Advent prayer by way of Psalm 146, especially verses 7 to 9, and our reading in Matthew. Walter Brueggemann brings them together in a revealing and valuable: statement:
“ The catalogue of YHWH’s characteristic activities towards the vulnerable and disinherited is echoed in Luke 7.22 [=Matthew 11. 4-5] In that narrative confrontation with John the Baptist, Jesus is said to make a decisive difference in the lives of themarginalised.”
Ian Black’s Advent prayer also brings out Christ’s nature
Come, Lord Christ, to restore all that has been lost through struggle and fear, in sorrow and pain.
Come, Lord Christ to restore the balance of hope for those oppressed and hungry for justice,
overlooked and counted of little worth.
Come. Lord Christ, to restore to wholeness the image that is tarnished with sin and shame, neglect an distraction.
Come Lord Christ, in poverty and humility, to raise us to your eternal glory. Amen.
That could lead us to offer so much of Neville Smith’s ‘Prayers for those in Hospital’ but let’s make do with just one:
Almighty God, the giver of all good gifts, we rejoice especially in your gift of healing,
renewed and rediscovered within your Church.
We give thanks for all who practise this ministry, and all who benefit from it.
Grant them cure and recovery from illness of mind and body.
Grant them above all the healing which comes
from the knowledge of your presence,
the assurance of your love,
and trust in your forgiveness and acceptance.
May they know they are one with you,
and with those whom they know and love.
So, at peace with themselves,
may they know your healing power. Amen
Now a dash of realism from John Wesley
O Lord, let us not live to be useless, for Christ’s sake. Amen
Isaiah 11.1-10; Psalm 72.1-7,18-19; Romans 15.4-13; Matthew 3. 1-12
Matthew tells us a lot about a rough and tough character called John who made an impression on his contemporaries to the extent that members of the religious establishment thought it a good idea to get him to baptise them. He didn’t mince his words!
Father, through John the Baptist you tried to prepare your people for the coming of Jesus. Will you try to prepare us too? Prepare our hearts and minds that we know what to look for in the coming of Jesus Christ into our world. May we show the joy of the Advent message in our lives day by day. Through him who came at Christmas time. Amen
Fairly mild that one? Let’s get tougher!
Give us, O God, something of the spirit of your servant John the Baptist:
his moral courage,
his contentment with simplicity,
his refusal to be fettered by this world,
his faithfulness in witness to the end.
So may we be heralds of Christ and his kingdom and make ready his way,
to the glory of his name. Amen
As we are in the midst of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender- Based Violence and Abuse the Mothers’ Union are playing a role much like John the Baptist in producing thought-provoking and hard-hitting material relating to moral issues and problems of today’s world. Although FGM is featured I chose their material on the impact of child marriage for thought and prayer:
Each year, 12 million girls marry before the age of 18. That’s 23 girls every minute (UN)
Child brides face huge challenges because they are married as children. Girls tend to be poor, under-educated and live in rural areas, where birth and death rates are high, and conflict is common. Isolated and with limited freedom, they lose their childhood.
Child brides are neither physically nor emotionally ready to become wives and mothers risking dangerous complications in pregnancy and childbirth, and often suffering domestic violence,
‘For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no-one to help.’ (Psalm 72. 12)
We pray for a change in religious and cultural norms and that governments will outlaw this appalling practice.
With this new church year, we move to the Year A lectionary:
Isaiah 2. 1-5;Psalm 122; Romans 13. 11-14; Matthew 24.36-44
I don’t think I am alone in finding the Advent season a troubling one in some ways. It combines thankfulness with awe. ‘Fear of the Lord’ doesn’t mean being physically afraid, but being conscious of God’s holiness and power which is where we need to start our Advent journey. Here’s a simple look:
Father God, this is the day when the church starts to think about Christmas. The very word makes us feel excited. You want us to be excited about Christmas, Father, and you want us to enjoy it. But you also want us to understand it. In these Sundays of Advent teach us, Father, what Christmas means… Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
(The Lion Prayer Collection)
Let’s tackle something older and a bit long-winded but much tougher next!
Our gracious Lord, by whose direction this time is appointed for renewing the memory of thy infinite mercy to man in the incarnation of thy only Son; grant that we may live, this holy time,
in the spirit of thanks giving and every day may raise up our hearts to thee in the grateful acknowledgement of what thou hast done for us.
Besides this we ask thy grace, O God, that we may make a due use of this holy time, for preparing our souls to receive Christ our Lord coming to the world at the approaching solemnity of Christmas.
Christ came into the world to do good to all. Grant, O God, we may thus prepare to meet him. Grant that we may be watchful at this time above all others, in avoiding every thing that can be injurious to our neighbour, whether in afflicting him, or giving him scandal, or drawing him into sin or casting any blemish on his reputation; but in all things, O God, may we follow the spirit of charity, being forward in bringing comfort and relief to all, as far as their circumstances shall require, and ours permit.
Grant, O Lord, that we may prepare to meet our redeemer. Amen
John Goter, 17th century
O Lord our God, make us watchful and keep us faithful as we await the coming of your Son, our Lord; that when he shall appear he may find us not sleeping in sin but active in his service and joyful in his praise, for the glory of your holy name. Amen
Christ the King
Jeremiah 23.1-6; Psalm 46; Colossians 1. 11-20; Luke 23, 33-43
Coming as it does on the last Sunday of the Church’s year this celebration, a fairly new addition to the calendar, gives us the chance to sum up all that Jesus Christ has meant to us and has done for us throughout the year.
Ian Black provides the basic framework for us to pray and meditate
Lord Jesus Christ,
in you we see the splendour of God in human form,
sharing our joys, sufferings and frailty.
In your resurrection and ascension
we see your majesty completed
and are silenced in wonder.
May we find in your service true freedom
and in your will our hopes fulfilled
For you are one God with the Father and the Spirit;
And live and reign in eternal glory. Amen
By a happy coincidence during this week we are invited to remember Isaac Watts. In the early 18th century Watts wrote hymns for the dissenters of whom he was an active member. His poems became so popular and effective that the Church of England changed and started singing hymns for the first time! He wrote a paraphrase of Psalm 72 about Christ the King!
Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Does his successive journeys run;
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.
Let’s get back to that king, identified by Ian Black, who shares with us and so in reverse think about our sharing with him, in a simple prayer by Bishop Harries
O Christ, mind of love, mind of the Father,
enable us to share in your unceasing work
of overcoming evil with good.
Thank you, good Lord, for the opportunity
to follow you more closely
and become more like you.
Help me to walk in the way of love.
The diocese issued a booklet ten years ago called Faith at Work. Here is a positive prayer to finish our day with that caring King:
At last, Lord, it is time for bed.
Thank you for this day,
for the people who have welcomed me, for the sights and sounds that have cheered me,
for all that I have achieved with your help.
May I never forget that you are always with me. Amen
2nd before Advent (Remembrance)
Micah 4,1-5; Romans 8. 31-end; John 15. 9-17
I expect someone somewhere has already said ‘experience defines thought’ If they haven’t I offer it now. There are still a few of us who remember the Second World War as a personal experience. It very much determines my thought on Remembrance Sunday. Both my father and my brother took an active part. I was too young but watched dog fights in the air over Kent and saw and felt bombs as they were dropped. That’s all history book stuff to younger generations… It defines my thought, just as the profound experiences of the generation who suffered the First World War defined the format of the Remembrance Days of my childhood in an army family It seems just as relevant today with the war in Ukraine
Let us pray for all who suffer as a result of war:
for the injured and the disabled,
and for those whose faith in God and man has been weakened or destroyed…
and for all who lost their livelihood and security…
for those who mourn their dead,
those who have lost husband or wife, children or parents,
and especially for those who have no hope in Christ to sustain them in their grief…
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, infinite in wisdom, love and power: nave compassion on those for whom we pray; and help us to use all suffering in the cause of your kingdom, through him who gave himself for us on the cross, Jesus Christ your Son out Lord. Amen
(from an unknown source)
We pray for peace in our world:
For all national leaders,
That they may have wisdom to know and courage to do what is right;
for all men amd women,
that their hearts may be turned tp yourself in the search for righteousness and truth;
for those who are working fo improve international relationships, that they may find thre true way of reconciliation;
for those who suffer as a result of war;
the injured and disabled,’
the homeless and hungry
for the mentally distressed
for the homeless and refugees,
for those who are hungry
and especially for those who are without hope or friend to sustain them in their grief.
Bible Peace Fellowship
3rd before Advent
Job 19. 23-27a; Psalm 17.1-9; 2 Thessalonians 2.1-5, 13-17; Luke 20. 27-38
There seems to be a lot going wrong with our world at present so plenty for us to pray about!
Christopher Avon Lamb offers contemporary prayer which can often be applied to current situations
Lord of grace and gentleness, we pray for a world in which even ordinary humanity fails so often. We pray for those who are called government ministers – servants – in every nation. We pray that those who lead and take on themselves great responsibilities may not simply wish to seem great in the eyes of others, but may genuinely serve their peoples, searching continually for policies and strategies which will be for the good of all, especially for the weakest and most vulnerable. We ask this for the sake of him who is both servant and Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen
Canon Lamb may be contemporary but so, in his way, is Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury who produced the following about 900 years ago.
We bring before thee, O Lord,
The troubles and perils of peoples and nations,
The sighing of prisoners and captives,
the sorrows of the bereaved,
the necessities of strangers,
the helplessness of the weak,
the despondency of the weary,
the failing powers of the aged.
O Lord, draw near to each,
For the sake of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen
In the Gospel reading Luke tells us about a conservative group of believers in the Torah who try out a ridiculous argument in their attempt to put Jesus in the wrong. As usual Jesus uses argument of a rabbinical form, suiting their cast of thought, to choose life rather than death. Let us join with Bishop Westcott in admitting our own failings which can likewise lead us astray.
We beseech thee, O God, the God of truth,
That what we know not of things we ought to know
Thou wilt teach us
That what we know of truth
Thou wilt keep us therein.
That what we are mistaken in, as people must be,
Thou wilt correct.
That at whatsoever things we stumble
Thou wilt yet establish us.
And from all things that are false
And from all knowledge that would be hurtful
Thou wilt evermore defend us,
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen
Let’s have a moment of calm now with William Penn:
In the rush and noise of life, as you have intervals, step within
your selves and be still. Wait upon God and feel his good presence; this will carry you through your day’s business.
Jeremiah 14, 7-10, 19-22; Psalm 84.1-7; 2 Timothy 4.6-8, 16-18, Luke 18. 9-14
It is difficult not to despair at the present state of the world and of this country. This week includes United Nations Day. There are ‘official’ prayers for the UN but Canon Christopher Lamb’s prayer ranges more widely and speaks of our own present situation also
We cannot pray for those who suffer without being conscious of our own responsibility for some part of that suffering.
Lord, as we listen and watch the events unfolding in our world, especially in Somalia, Ukraine and our own land, we know our own failure as a nation and as a community of nations to prevent the violence and the starvation and the forced expulsion from their homes of so many of our human family.
Bring us to the point where we demand of our leaders that they put peace and justice and the care of the weakest first, so that we can help others to hold up their heads as people who are cared about, just as Jesus went to the poor and the helpless and the outcast of the world. We ask it for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
As I write Ms Truss is still our Prime Minister but we are clearly in a time of crisis. As usual Frank Colquhoun offers a highly suitable prayer :
God of all wisdom and might, we pray for those involved in our present crisis, especially those who bear the responsibility and exercise the authority of leadership.
May the Holy Spirit so direct their counsels and actions that justice and mercy may prevail, evil be averted and harmony restored, to the honour of your great name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Now a familiar verse from John Greenleaf Whittier’s hymn (what a wonderful middle name, by the way)
Dear Lord and Father of mankind
Forgive our foolish ways!
Restore us to our rightful mind;
In purer lives your service find
In deeper reverence, praise.
Having voiced to God our worries, our concerns, Whittier’s quiet Quaker thought moves us towards the tranquillity that our Father always offers, expressed here as advice by William Penn
In the rush and noise of life, as you have intervals, step within yourselves and be still. Wait upon God and feel his good presence this will carry you through your day’s business.
Having felt the pressures of the day and being guided through them by Penn let us close on the consoling words of the Leonine
O God, who gives the day for work and the night for sleep, refresh our bodies and our minds through the quiet hours of night, and let our inward eyes be directed towards you, dreaming of your eternal glory.
Genesis 32. 2-31; Psalm 121; 2 Timothy 3.14-4.5; Luke 18.1-8.
When I first read today’s readings, I got it wrong! I thought they were all about vindication, but, of course, they aren’t, they’re about persistence, perseverance. Jacob kept on in his wrestling with God, only letting go when he obtained the blessing. God will neither slumber nor sleep in looking after us, says the Psalmist. Timothy is told to continue in what he has learned and Jesus tells us about a persistent woman…
Let’s follow that up, starting in the 14th century with an extract from The Cloud of Unknowing
Do not give up…When you first begin, you find only darkness and as it were a cloud of unknowing . You don’t know what this means except that in your will you feel a simple, steadfast intention reaching out towards God… Reconcile yourself to wait in this darkness as long as is necessary, but still go on longing after him you love.
Coming a little nearer to us in time, Sir Francis Drake’s prayer moves from the meditative to the man of action
O Lord God, when thou givest to thy servants to endeavour any great matter, grant us to know that it is not the beginning but the continuing of the same unto the end, until it be thoroughly finished, which yieldeth the true glory; through him who for the finishing of thy work laid down his life, even our Redeemer Jesus Christ. Amen
Coming even nearer in time – indeed within my lifetime – we come to a Lutheran priest who, after ten years of opposing Nazism and Hitler was imprisoned in 1943. He suffered bitter anguish, but persistent and unquenchable faith over the next two years before being hanged in 1945 by the Nazis.
O Holy Spirit, give me faith that will protect me from despair, from passions and from vice, give me such love for God as will blot out all hatred and bitterness, give me the hope that will deliver me from fear and faint-heartedness. Amen
In our present crisis – both national and for many of us, personal - it would be easy to fall into despair. Plenty of the Psalms have a good moan at God but Bonhoeffer, for one, rises above that.
If that doesn’t work for you try the simple, straightforward words of Percy Dearmer that fit so beautifully with the old tune Quem Pastores laudavere
Jesu, good above all other,
Gentle child of gentle Mother,
In a stable born our Brother,
Give us grace to persevere.
2 Kings 5.1-3,7-15c; Psalm 111; 2 Timothy 2.8-15; Luke 17.11-19
This is Prisons Week and our local prison continues its work as a beacon of hope aiming at rehabilitation and a constructive return to society for the men living there. Here is the Prisons Week Prayer
Lord, you offer freedom to all people. We pray for those in prison. Break the bonds of fear and isolation that exist. Support with your love prisoners and their families and friends, prison staff and all those who care. Heal those who have been wounded by the actions of others, especially the victims of crime. Help us to forgive one another, to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly together with Christ in his strength and his Spirit, now and every day. Amen
We follow it up with the prayer of a prisoner’s family member
Thank you for these kind-hearted people who’ve helped me through the toughest time in my life. Give us patience when we are tested. Help us see there is no point being lost in bitterness, when we should be grateful to be alive.
That offers us gratitude in a modern context. The theme of this week’s readings is gratitude. Naaman finally got round to it after following the advice of a young girl. Sadly, nine Jews didn’t, but the despised Samaritan did. There is a danger that gratitude can become self-indulgent but not when the poet George Herbert (beloved by Fr John Westwood) is involved:
Thou hast given so much to me.
Give me one thing more, a grateful heart.
See how thy beggar works on thee
Wherefore I cry, and cry again;
And in no quiet canst thou be,
Till I a thankful heart obtain
Not thankful, when it pleases me
As if thy blessings had spare days:
But such a heart, whose pulse may be
(I particularly love his idea that our gratitude is in danger of expecting the occasional day off!)
The problem faced by young girls in Hindu India is equally on our screens regarding Moslem girls in Iran at this time. USPG’s prayer for Tuesday – International Day of the Girl Child - is relevant in both countries and elsewhere , including some of our own towns and cities. (What is it about these men?) There is no real difference when we think back to the suicide of young Molly Russell
Let us pray for the well-being of young girls across the world
. May they be supported to pursue their dreams without fear of harm, prejudice or bias. Amen
Habakkuk 1.1-4; 2. 1-4; Psalm 37. 1-9; 2 Timothy 1.1-14; Luke 17. 5 - 10
The early verses of the Habakkuk reading are very relevant to the situation in which we find ourselves with Vladimir Putin. The same is true of the section of Psalm 37. In the UK we are still at one remove from direct physical involvement in the war in Ukraine but the support we and others provide to Ukraine reflects the Christian ethic which still informs our society. The following prayer by a Liberian child prays for peace with the intensity of one suffering directly and personally, showing us so clearly exactly what those readings are about.
God, what kind of world is this that the adult people are going to leave for us children? There is fighting everywhere and they tell us we live in a time of peace. You are the only one who can help us, Lord, give us a new world in which we can be happy, in which we can have friends and work together for a good future. A world in which there will not be any cruel people who seek to destroy us and our world in so many ways.
We have a rich week in terms of commemorations. First up is Francis of Assisi so we shall have the first part of what has become a familiar hymn and following on from the Liberian youngster’s prayer.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me show love
Where there is injury, let me show pardon,
Where is doubt, let me show faith,
Where there is despair, let me give hope,
Where there is darkness, let me give light.
Francis is so valuable we can’t just leave it there:
Almighty, eternal, just and merciful God, grant us the desire to do only what pleases you, and the strength to do only what you command. Cleanse our souls, enlighten our minds and inflame our hearts with your Holy Spirit, that we may follow in the footsteps of your beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Amen
We move from Italy to England now with William Tyndale. He translated the Bible into English and paid with his life for doing so. Many of his expressions were used in the King James Bible so are familiar to us: ‘by the skin of my teeth’ for example. This (adapted) prayer of his seems appropriate to our current financial and political situation
Almighty God, whose is the eternal only power,
and other men’s power but borrowed of thee;
we beseech thee for all those who hold office that,
holding it first from thee, they may use it for
the general good and to thine honour;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Amos 6.1a, 4-7; Psalm 146; 1 Timothy 6. 6-19; Luke 16. 19-31
The country’s ‘official’ mourning for Queen Elizabeth has now ended atter a period of widespread grief led by the Royal family who struggled to maintain their composure. We have had a week where many thousands of ordinary people have had the opportunity to express their love against a background of the full panoply of state. Court mourning has continued so it is appropriate to pray at this time for the Royal family, able now to grieve out of the public gaze and begin to think once more of the future.
Almighty God, Father of all mercies and giver of all grace, we ask your blessing on the members of the Royal family as they fulfil their service among us; that both by their word and example our nation and commonwealth may be strengthened in the love of righteousness and freedom, and preserved in unity and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Remembered this week is Bishop Lancelot Andrewes who was one of the main translators of the Authorized Version of the Bible. I have always found his command of words and their rhythms a guide and inspiration. The following is a selection from his translation (mainly psalms), used as a prayer of praise with a word of consolation for those who mourn tucked in at the end.
O Lord, the day is thine, and the night is thine; thou hast prepared the light and the sun; they continue this day according to thine ordinance for all things serve thee. Blessed art thou, O Lord,
who turnest the shadow of death into the morning, and dost renew the face of the earth.
Whilst things at home are not without their stresses and strains the international situation is far more concerning, with the threat of nuclear war at a point not previously seen in this generation I found my attempts at a prayer inadequate. I therefore turned to the Week pf Prayer for World Peace. It was their day last week on September 21st.
God of all grace, call to the nations of the earth to cease from strife, that all may join to fight not one another but their common foes of want and ignorance, disease and sin.
Lead back mankind out of the way of death into the way of life; and from destruction to the building up of a new world of righteousness and peace, of liberty and joy.
End the dark night of lies and cruelty: bring in the dawn of mercy and truth.
Let’s end with a quickie from Bishop Lancelot
Let this day, O Lord, add some knowledge or good deed to yesterday.
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