Undo the Folded Lie: A Prayer for Preachers

Undo the Folded Lie: A Prayer for Preachers March 8, 2022

W.H. Auden wrote a poem about the beginning of World War II entitled, “September 1, 1939.” Reading it today as Russia attacks Ukraine, as white nationalists attack people of color, as the patriarchy attacks women and trans children and their families, and as humanity attacks Earth itself, Auden’s words are eerily resonant for our own time.  His line, “All I have is a voice to undo the folded lie,” inspired me to write a prayer for preachers.

Here are excerpts from Auden’s poem.  The prayer follows.

W.H. Auden’s poem, “September 1, 1939”

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

The poem continues . . .

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

All I have is a voice . . .

Undo the Folded Lie. Photo by Martijn Baudoin on Unsplash https://unsplash.com/photos/w2FJpng8Ouk

This is the preacher’s sad lament, but also their greatest power.  Do not doubt the power of your voice.  May this prayer inspire and sustain you during these horrific times.

Undo the Folded Lie: A Prayer for Preachers

Spirit of Truth:

empower our voices to undo the folded lie

that invading and destroying a country

and its buildings and its people and its land

is justifiable . . .


the folded lie

that black and brown bodies are to be feared



and disposed of . . .


the folded lie

that women’s bodies and minds

are nothing but receptacles to be controlled . . .


the folded lie

that Jews or Muslims are a menace . . .


the folded lie

that people whose gender and sexuality

defy patriarchal norms

are abhorrent . . .


the folded lie

that Earth is an endless source

of goods and fuel

to be burned up and discarded . . .


and the folded lie

that the Bible justifies these folded lies

within its folded pages.


Use our voices

to strengthen those who resist tyranny . . .

who refuse to comply with gaslighting, manipulation, and coercion . . .

who are taking their first steps to turn away

from the folded lies

of “isms” that promise power and control

but sacrifice even those they seduce.


Be merciful with those who are broken from violence and abuse.

Keep coming at us with the truth

that we must love one another

or die.


And even when we die,

hold us close to the

foolish      unrelenting     resurrecting    hope

of that love.


Read also:

315 Today: A Poem about Gun Violence

The Origami of Grief: Unfolding, Refolding, Enfolding

Eco-Poetry for Earth Day

The Rev. Dr. Leah D. Schade is the Associate Professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky and ordained in the ELCA. Dr. Schade does not speak for LTS or the ELCA; her opinions are her own.  She is the author of Preaching in the Purple Zone: Ministry in the Red-Blue Divide (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019) and Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015). She is the co-editor of Rooted and Rising: Voices of Courage in a Time of Climate Crisis (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019).  Her latest book, co-written with Jerry Sumney is Apocalypse When?: A Guide to Interpreting and Preaching Apocalyptic Texts (Wipf & Stock, 2020).



"That's a good question, David. Yes, Rohrer would be considered "defrocked" in the ELCA. My ..."

Rohrer Removed, Rabell Reinstated. What’s Done, ..."
"Thank you for this very thorough replay of all the issues. Question: I'm not familiar ..."

Rohrer Removed, Rabell Reinstated. What’s Done, ..."
"Thanks for engaging this article, Howard, and for sharing information about the Cobb institute. They ..."

The Big Red, White, and Blue ..."

Browse Our Archives