Living, Loving Father,
As Your people, whom You have given life, we bless You today. You have always been faithful to us, and so it is that today, in every corner of our world, we, Your people, offer You our highest praise.
You have been ever-faithful, breathing Your own life into us, and providing us with everything that we need. Yet we have not been kept from all difficulty; the suffering in our world is immense. Even if we are not those who have been in the fire, or right in the middle of the storm, at times we have all felt the flames, or had the sense that a river is sweeping us away while we are completely helpless. And as we pray these things, we are mindful of our brothers and sisters in our own neighborhoods, and in other parts of our country and our world whose difficulties and suffering are much greater than our own. Please comfort those who have lost everything at the hand of nature, or because of the senseless acts of others. As so many are hurting today, we realize that each and every day, many will suffer tremendously precisely because they have done right. Because they love You, as we do, many will give up everything, including their very lives, today.
All of these burdens can feel so heavy, as if we are being crushed. Yet You have promised us, and indeed we have experienced, that we never face these things alone. This is as true for the children abandoned in the streets of our world as it is for each of us today. You have not left us alone. You are not far from any of Your children. Although we come to prayer today to seek You, praying makes us aware that You have come seeking each of us.
Even in suffering, we realize that You are near. When we consider the life, death, and resurrection of Your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, we see One who knows suffering, who suffered tremendously once for all of us, so that we might be reconciled to You, so that we might love You and experience the joy of walking in Your commands, so that we might see You more clearly and be made clearer channels of Your grace to a desperate world.
You have heard us as we have prayed today, and we bless You. Even though so many things could be taken from us at any moment, Your steadfast love will never leave us. We see this most clearly in Jesus, who lived in You, and who invites us to live in Him as He lives in us through the Holy Spirit.
Therefore it is as Your beloved children and Jesus' beloved students that we pray again together the prayer that He taught us, saying,
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.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are Yours now and for ever. Amen
The readings for this week, on which this prayer is based, are:
- Acts 17:22-31: This is the sixth of eight weeks (from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday) when our reading that would normally come from the Old Testament comes instead from the Book of Acts. This passage is Paul's witness to the Greeks in Athens, identifying the one whom they worshipped as the "unknown god" as the creator of the world and all that it is in it, who is not far from us, and who raised Jesus from the dead.
- Psalm 66:8-20: A song of praise to God for his faithfulness through intense trials, and a promise to keep God's commands.
- 1 Peter 3:13-22: This is the fifth of six consecutive readings from 1 Peter, which heavily emphasizes the life we are to live in light of Jesus’ resurrection. In this passage, Peter encourages his readers (who were likely suffering significantly) by reminding them of the blessing that is theirs since they were God's people suffering for doing God's will.
- John 14:15-21: This is the third of four gospel readings from John during the Easter season. (Most of this year’s gospel readings come from Matthew) It is also the second of three that come from John’s account of Jesus’ last night with his disciples, after washing their feet and prior to his arrest. This week's passage follows immediately upon last week's reading, where Jesus told his disciples that he was going away and that he is the way. We read this week that Jesus assures his friends that as they keep his commands, the Holy Spirit ("Advocate/Counselor" and "Spirit of truth") will be in them, and will be the means of Christ himself being in them, after they are able to see him no longer.
(Ecumenical version of The Lord’s Prayer from The United Methodist Hymnal)