Prayers for challenging times

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This text takes the form of a short service which may be said alone, or by a group together, or by individuals who are aware of their fellowship in spirit though separated by distance. If several are present, words in bold italic may be said by all while other words may be said by a leader or be shared amongst group members. As a focus for reflection a candle may be lit; alternatively a symbol, item or icon representing God’s present help may be displayed. Don’t rush.

Preparing our minds and hearts:
words from scripture

Jesus said,
‘I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.’    John 8:12

Darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.     Isaiah 60:2-3

Opening prayer:
Seeking God

O my God, teach my heart where and how to seek you,
where and how to find you:
you are my God, and you are my All;
and I have never seen you.

You have made me and remade me,
you have showered on me all the good things I possess.
Still I do not know you.
I have not yet done that for which I was made:
teach me to seek you.

I cannot seek you unless you teach me,
or find you unless you show yourself to me.
Let me seek you in my desire,
let me desire you in my seeking.
Let me find you by loving you,
let me love you when I find you.    Anselm of Canterbury

Let me find you by loving you,
let me love you when I find you.

Listening for God:
Quiet reflection

One or more of the passages which follow may be read, slowly – and more than once, if you wish. If two or more are used, they should be separated by adequate periods for silent thought and reflection. The image at the top of this page is artwork representing the woman, suffering bleeding for many years, who touched the hem of Jesus’ cloak. It is found in Magdala, by the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and is located on the historic road from the quayside where the incident may have taken place.

From Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall want for nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.

From Psalm 38

All my longings lie open before you, Lord:
my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart pounds, my strength fails me;
even the light has gone from my eyes.
My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds;
my neighbours stay far away.
Those who want to kill me set their traps,
those who would harm me talk of my ruin;
all day long they scheme and lie.

For I am about to fall,
and my pain is ever with me.
I confess my iniquity;
I am troubled by my sin.
Many have become my enemies without cause;
those who hate me without reason are numerous.
Those who repay my good with evil
lodge accusations against me,
though I seek only to do what is good.

Lord, do not forsake me;
do not be far from me, my God.
Come quickly to help me,
my Lord and my Saviour.  

From Isaiah 35

The ransomed of the Lord shall return,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
The wilderness and the dry land shall rejoice,
the desert shall blossom and burst into song.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weary hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to the anxious, ‘Be strong, fear not,
your God is coming with judgement,
coming with judgement to save you.’
Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
Then shall the lame leap like a hart,
and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
The ransomed of the Lord shall return with singing,
with everlasting joy upon their heads.
Joy and gladness shall be theirs,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
The ransomed of the Lord shall return,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. 

From Matthew 8

The centurion said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, “Go”, and he goes, and to another, “Come”, and he comes, and to my slave, “Do this”, and the slave does it.’
When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, ‘Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.
And to the centurion Jesus said, ‘Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.’ And the servant was healed in that hour.

From Luke 8

As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.
‘Who touched me?’ Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, ‘Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.’
But Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.’
Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.’ 

From Romans 8

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

After a time of silence, there may be said:
Let me find you by loving you,
let me love you when I find you.

Response:
Giving our whole selves to God

In silence, or by using words spoken or written, or by putting issues into some form through symbols or in art, memories or present issues of challenge, injury or pain may be aired.

A time of silence.

Praying in response:
Affirming the presence of a compassionate God

Lord, do not forsake me:
come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Saviour.
I will glorify your name for evermore:
do not be far from me, my God.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Saviour.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Do not bring us to the time of trial,
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours,
now and for ever. Amen.

Drawing to a close:
H
earing God’s promises

Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: here am I.

The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.   From Isaiah 58

Closing prayer

God of all things seen and unseen,
if you had insulated yourself from the pain of the world,
then your name could not be love
and our condition would be without hope.
Thank you for being so personally involved,
for revealing your complete commitment to such a world as this
in Jesus of Nazareth.
Through him we pray with hope,
in him we pray with love,
that we may know we are held in his grace.          from Bruce Prewer

Lord, in your mercy:
grant to your faithful people pardon and peace;
that they may be healed and made whole,
and serve you with a quiet mind;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Blessing

The Lord bless us and keep us;
the Lord make his face to shine upon us
and be gracious to us;
The Lord life up his countenance upon us
and give us peace. Amen.


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