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The things we pray in times of national tragedy and global pain share common threads, even if some of the specifics shift. Nearly all the prayers in this collection were written by Rev. Paul Janssen for a community service on Wednesday, September 12, 2001. While they speak in some places to the specific tragedy of 9/11, we share them because we find they are still resonant. They still help us pray amid the national and global tragedies we encounter now.

Gathering Prayer

We have gathered as a community,
not because we wanted to, but because we felt compelled to;
because we couldn’t not be here––for one another,
for the families of the victims of terrorism,
and for the laborers who at this very moment seek survivors.

We gather as citizens who love our God
and who love the good land God has given us;
who cherish the freedoms we enjoy,
and who lament our innocence lost.
With anger we come, and with sorrow;
with confusion and concern.

Our spirits boil with emotion;
our minds are ajumble with nagging implications.
We come
to pray,
to listen,
to speak to God and to one another;
to lament our losses
and lift up our wounded hearts for healing.

Prayer for Relief Workers

Hear our prayers, O God, for those whose hands are scarred with rubble,
lungs strafed with dust and ash, eyes stinging from debris,
and minds reeling from having to look at scenes they had never in all their lives wanted to see.
Grant them clear heads and strong backs;
guard their spirits when they are confronted with death.
May they greet the living with hands of mercy and compassion.

Be present, Lord, to those who supply relief workers with food and clothing;
sustain them with continued resolve and support them with our generosity.
We pray, O God, give listening and able ears to those who counsel the bravest and the finest,
and as they shepherd the spirits of the EMTs and hospital staff members and doctors.
Grant endurance and continued hope, O God, to all whose hands and hearts will forever bear the marks of the days ahead.
Against the backdrop of humanity at its worst, inspire them to be at their best,
and quicken our resolve to respond when we are called on to help.

Prayer for the Nation

Hear our prayer, O Lord our God, for our nation.
In many ways we have come to a full stop; airplanes streak no streams across the sky;
the din of the marketplace is stilled; the joy of lauding a deft double-play has beentaken from us.
Be present with us as one nation under you, O Lord.
Give constant and wise counsel to our President and his advisors.
Be present with our armed forces throughout the world,
who take their posts day and night on our behalf on high alert.
Strengthen the resolve of those leaders
who seek true justice rather than blind retaliation.
Keep us all mindful of how small this earth is,
how interrelated our lives have become,
and how fragile security and peace is.
Hold us together as one people, Lord;
guard us from lashing out in prejudice against our neighbors
who, having come from many lands, now pledge their allegiance to but one flag.
Lord our God, have mercy upon us,
and grant us your peace.

Sharing in Prayer

At this time and in this safe place I invite all who feel led to say a few words, in whatever fashion they come to you. Feel free to express whatever is layed upon you heart, knowing that all that is spoken is spoken before God and in the company of God’s people. Let this be a time for us to come together and share our souls honestly before God our maker.

Prayer for Families of Victims

We lift our most heartfelt prayers, O God,
for those who on this night are still waiting for word of their loved ones,
and for those who have already heard the worst.

We pray for those who are healing from injuries to body or mind.
We pray for those still unaccounted for.
We pray for moms and dads who went to work unsuspecting,
and for their children who expected them to come home and take them to practice.
We pray for all families whose histories have been forever altered
as the effects of the attack pass on from generation to generation.

We pray for those who have never been in battle
but who have witnessed war’s ravages;
even the survivors, Lord, have become victims.
And although it is but by your grace that we come here to pray,
we, too, mourn our own innocence lost, O Lord.

You do not delight in wickedness, O God;
so enfold us with your compassion, uphold us with your love,
and keep us, and all who suffer, in your sight.
Grace us, O God; heal and embrace us,
and lead us from this darkness into your everlasting light.
Amen.

Benediction

A benediction is a good word. God’s good word reminds us that it is better to light a candle than merely to curse darkness; that God’s sure light shines in the darkness and that the darkness can never overcome it. Thus, after I bid you God’s peace, I invite you to light a candle and take it with you as a pledge and a memorial that God’s will will be done on earth as in heaven, and that rejoicing awaits those who take refuge in our God.

Dearly beloved friends, may God’s everlasting peace be with you now, and give us all the spirit to face whatever we have to face, now and into tomorrow’s tomorrows.
Amen.

Litany for the Church in Time of Tragedy

Author unknown

Eternal God, you are our only hope, our sure help in time of trouble.
In all times and places you alone are our strength and stay.
Because we trust in you, we dare to believe:

Goodness is stronger than evil;
love is stronger than hate;
light is stronger than darkness;
hope is stronger than despair.

Although often lost in grief and overwhelmed by fear and anger,we hear your call to firmer faith and deeper trust.
In the midst of doubt and fear
you call us to be a people of prayer.
Help us, O Lord, to place our confidence in you as we pray for
all who have lost loved ones
those traumatized by memories and images they cannot forget
those who are paralyzed by fear
those who seek to do us harm
the leaders of nations…
Arab and Muslim neighbors
the people of Afghanistan

(silence)

Hear us, O Lord, and teach us to pray,
for you alone are our refuge and strength.

O God, true source of wholeness and peace,
in a world bearing fresh wounds of suffering and grief,
you call us to be a people of healing.
Help us to reach out to neighbors in need,
to bear one another’s burdens,
to weep with those who weep.

Give us the grace to share the comfort of Christ
with all those who long for his healing touch.
Surround those who have been shaken by tragedy
with a sense of your present love.

(silence)

Hear us, O Lord, and help us to heal,
for you alone are our refuge and strength.

Strong God of love,
in a world torn by violence and threatened by revenge and hatred,
you call us to be a people of love.
Give us the strength to love even when love is most difficult.

Save us from the desire for vengeance,
and from the temptation to rejoice in wrongdoing.
So fill us with the love of Christ
that we might seek the good for all people.
Do not let us be overcome by evil,
but help us overcome evil with good.

(silence)

Hear us, O Lord, and show us how to love,
for you alone are our refuge and strength.

God of truth and light,
in a world of darkness
you call us to bear witness to your light.
Guide us by your Spirit, that we might reflect the glory of your Son
in his courage in speaking the truth,
in his compassion for others,
in his willingness to bear suffering,
in his refusal to return evil for evil.

(silence)

Hear us, O Lord, and guide our witness,
for you alone are our refuge and strength.

Almighty and ever-faithful God,
in a world of despair
you call us to be a people of hope.
When we are cast down or dismayed, keep your Spirit alive in us.
Grant us faith to look forward with confidence to that day
when the whole world will be drawn into willing obedience to your reign
and people will come from east and west,
from north and south, to sit at table in your kingdom.

(silence)

Hear us, O Lord, and fill us with hope,
for you alone are our refuge and strength.

You, O Lord, are our refuge and strength,
our help in time of trouble.
Help us to hold in our hearts and show in our lives
what we proclaim with our lips:

Goodness is stronger than evil;
love is stronger than hate;
light is stronger than darkness;
hope is stronger than despair.