Why I Pray in Times of Disaster

As it should be, the airwaves have been filled with reporting and accounts of Hurricane Sandy and its impact the eastern part of the the United States. For many of us who are not being directly affected by the storm, it often feels like all we can do is follow the news coverage on TV, track our friends’ updates on Facebook and follow the immediate reporting through our Twitter stream.

The struggle for me during these times is how to not treat such times as some voyeuristic movie experience that can be paused or halted by powering down my device, but instead find a healthy way to participate in the healing and support. Honestly it is difficult to do, because in times that seem overwhelming and almost surreal, it’s much easier to pretend as if it’s not really happening, to distance oneself from the pain or romanticize the situation all together.

So here is what attempt I do.

I pray.

I give.

I connect.

I pray some more.

While prayer often seems to be birthed out of moments of fear, hopelessness and disbelief, I believe that prayer is ultimately an act of courage, hope and faith. Some think prayer is an act of convenience and an justification for inaction, and I get that, but for many people of faith, prayer is a powerful reminder to be the people we say we are. For me prayer is about remembering that there are always people in need of knowing God’s peace in body, mind and spirit; prayer is about remembering that even out of times of our deepest despair, new life will emerge; and prayer is about trusting that, somehow in some way, the Spirit of God is moving.

Prayer is not a set of demands or a wish list for God, but a powerful statement of my faith in God

And so I pray.

And my prayers compel me to give.

While for some, giving of physical or fiscal resources is not possible or prudent, I choose to give through my own denominational disaster assistance program, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. There are others as well, Church World Service, The Red Cross and many others* doing the front line and long term work of response and rebuilding.

And I connect.

I keep up with friends and family, I try to leverage whatever social networking influence I have for good and I make sure that the lives of those affected so directly remain at the forefront of my mind for as long as possible. From my distance it’s one particular – and hopefully helpful - way to be part of the response and recovery.

And then I pray some more.

Here is a prayer that was lifted up by Diana Butler Bass last night.

I speak for Christ:
Your God is not high in heaven
playing wild games with nature.
Your God is deep within each storm.
Your God is the suffering God,
revealed to us at Calvary,
and suffering with all who suffer
in the aftermath of storms.
Your God is the God of resurrection and new life

Below is an info graphic from my friend Sarah Cunningham. Please feel free to share it or simply consider doing some or all of what it calls us to do: pray, give and remember.

God in your mercy, hear OUR prayer . . .*

www.sarahcunningham.org/hurricane-sandy-infograph

* Please feel free to leave comments with organizations that you think are worth supporting and/or any worship resources or prayers that you have found meaningful.

On this September 11th – a Hymn and a Prayer

Photo by ejpphoto on Flickr

It is hard to believe that is has been 11 years since that surreal morning when the world’s attention was focused on the attack on the United States. Watching the looping images of planes flying into the World Trade Center, the attempts at trying to understand what was happening and the subsequent turmoil that as arguably altered the very nature of politics in the United States, 9/11 must be remembered with care and grace as we continued to deal with the aftermath.

We will never get beyond the politics and rhetoric of our collective 9/11 responses, but there is a time to pause, to remember and to grieve. As one who has been impacted by the tragic death of a family member, the implications on ones life and spirit never go away. Pain may ease, memories wane and emotions temper, but the loss is constant.  With this in mind, I offer up two resources that touched me this morning.

The first is a hymn from hymn writer, Carolyn Winfrey Gillette:

O God, Our Words Cannot Express
ST. ANNE (8.6.8.6) (Our God, Our Help in Ages Past)

O God, our words cannot express
The pain we feel this day.
Enraged, uncertain, we confess
Our need to bow and pray.

We grieve for all who lost their lives…
And for each injured one.
We pray for children, husbands, wives
Whose grief has just begun.

O Lord, we’re called to offer prayer
For all our leaders, too.
May they, amid such great despair,
Be wise in all they do.

We trust your mercy and your grace;
In you we will not fear!
May peace and justice now embrace!
Be with your people here!

Carolyn has published two hymn collections, Songs of Grace: New Hymns for God and Neighbor and Gifts of Love: New Hymns for Today’s Worship. You can find hymn notes as well as her other work on her website, www.carolynshymns.com. You can also like her on Facebook.

There are also many meaningful prayers out there for folks to use in worship or for personal devotion. My own denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA) has 9/11 Worship and Liturgy resources to download as does the National Council of Churches. Here is a prayer offered as part of a 10th anniversary liturgy of remembrance written by Rev. Dr. Eileen Lindner, pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Tenafly, N.J and the Rev. Jon Brown, a Presbyterian minister and Pastor of the Old Bergen Church, Jersey City, N.J.

Unison Prayer

God of all creation, our hearts are broken over the destruction and loss we remember this day. And we acknowledge, O Lord, that on that day of human carnage yours was the first heart to break.

In our remembering, may we stand with those who mourn and those who cannot stop mourning. Through remembering, may we find new comfort in your care. In our remembering may we be drawn to a new hope for the whole world, and may we gain for ourselves a measure of your peace.

You who can turn the shadow of night into the bright promise of a new day, empower us to shape a world marked by ways of life that lead to justice and peace for all peoples. Fashion in us a people who are more ready to grow in understanding than eager to judge those who are different from us. Form us as a people determined to heal wounds rather than inflict them.

We pray at last that you would cultivate such love in us that we may reach out in compassion to all those who are still wounded by the events of that day; and in seeking to heal others, may we experience a love that makes us whole.

This we pray in the strong name of Jesus our Christ. Amen

Please feel free to share other resources, prayers and reflections this day. Again, there is always space for the politics and debate, but on this day, let us simply pause, remember and grieve.


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