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A Prayer amidst a pandemic and pandemonium

Lord, we need not tell you how badly we need you. You know it all too well. You’ve just been waiting to see how long it will take us to realize our reliance on you. Neither do you need a reminder of what’s happening among us. You are fully aware of the travail we face. You’ve just been waiting to hear us acknowledge that we are hurting and that we cannot heal ourselves. So, hear our prayer O Lord, as we acknowledge our sin and seek your comfort, guidance, redemption, grace and peace.

Our land, even our world, is in turmoil. People are sick from a seemingly uncontrollable disease. To mitigate risks, we’ve changed the ways we interact with each other and with you. Foregoing our customary ways of worshipping you, our churches, synagogues and mosques have come to be considered “non-essential”. Our schools are closed. Factories, shops, restaurants and offices sit empty, leaving workers and learners sitting idle at home. Vacation venues and places of amusement, fun and fellowship are vacant or eerily quiet. Our quarantined elderly and infirm long to hug their loved ones who so desperately need hugs right now. Those are hugs that most closely resemble the comfort we need from you. Restore our soul and lead us beside still waters.

The restlessness of our confinement and unemployment stirs anxiety deep within us – and among us. Emotions are tangled. The fragile, fraying strands of respect, patience, self-control and understanding – so crucial in civil society – are snapping under structural fatigue. Festering infections from past injustices rise and puncture the thinning skin of self-restraint. Tragically, too many of us have used the circumstances to excuse our lack of faith in you and to justify our wariness of others. Create in us clean hearts, O God and renew a right sprit among us.

Unable to manage the uncertainties of our challenges, we confess that we’ve allowed them to bring out the worst in us. Domestic violence, road rage, emotional abuse, civil unrest, political bickering, racial strife and all manner of pent-up angers have erupted with outrageous consequences. Suspicion and distrust have taken the controls of our hearts. We’ve become like distracted drivers, always looking for someone to blame or at least a sidetrack by which to avoid the collision we fear. We have lost our way by placing our hope in ourselves and putting our trust in flawed human guidance. Teach us to lean not onto our own understanding but to put our trust in you alone.

The results of our faithlessness are too real to ignore. A police officer, charged with the honor of serving, protecting and defending the community against the hatreds we abhor, becomes the latest example of that very hatred. One dies and we all taste the bitterness of death. All Hell breaks loose when the justifiable outrage results in rioting and carnage in the streets of otherwise peaceable neighborhoods. Rioter, injured party and bystander alike are victimized by horrible injustice.

Those entrusted with the reins of leadership are not much less distracted than we. Their compassion is too shallow to drown the vitriol of violence and their actions are motivated more by a desire for political self-preservation than by sacrificial devotion to peace and justice. Little more than lip service is rendered to your sovereignty and we call your name only to bless our pitiful platitudes. Remind us that the sacrifice you require involves the rolling waters of justice and a flowing stream of righteousness. Disarm our arrogance and teach us again how to walk humbly with you. Guide us into the paths of your righteousness for your Name’s sake.

Push aside the obstruction of discord and let us feel your healing touch. Quench the fires of rage around and within us and allow us to see the light of your hope. Quieten the noisy voices of fear, mistrust, grief and wrath and tune our ears to your still, small voice.

Trouble our conscience that it may betray our guilt. Embolden our moral fiber that it may lead us to repentance. Forgive us in our transgressions to the extent that we forgive those whose transgressions have left us wounded and scarred. Unclench our fists, dear God, so that we may extend our hands in comfort and mercy. Revive us again, O Lord, and make us the instruments or your grace. Pour out your spirit upon all people and make us worthy of being created in your image. So may we hear and speak your gospel of peace across the weary world.

In the power and holiness of your Name we pray, AMEN.

Rev. Mike Bowers

Jacksons Grove UMC of Landrum