Grasping for Control: A Pastoral Prayer for Lent

2016-02-22
Grasping for Control: A Pastoral Prayer for Lent

Waiting,

patient,

seeking God—

these do not feel like days in which it is easy to sit and be still. No longer winter, but not yet spring; no longer Christmas, but not yet Easter; no longer searching, but not yet settled, these are in-between days. And we are not very often good at being in-between people.1Written for 10 a.m. worship at Winnetka Congregational Church on February 21, 2016, the second Sunday of Lent; Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

Some days, holy God, it seems as though the chill of winter has left, the time of transitions has passed, the worst has been endured, and the days ahead are certain to bring better things—days when the sun shines, the snow melts, and our imaginations bloom with future possibilities.

But when we wake the next morning,

We see an overcast sky;

We see the troubling headlines from Chicago, Kalamazoo, Uganda, Syria, Fiji, Central & South America, and so many other places around Your world;

We see our friends, our relatives, and even our own children, suffering in ways we cannot prevent or mend:

  • enduring grief,
  • anticipating surgeries,
  • waiting for test results,
  • fighting disease,
  • awaiting death,
  • struggling to find their place in the world and to see themselves as Your beloved child;

We see our own lives fractured:

  • relationships on rocky ground,
  • decisions we don’t know how to make,
  • time in short supply,
  • our lives unspooling beneath us.

So much we cannot control … so much pain we cannot take away … so much wrong we cannot right … so many uncertainties we cannot know.

Our citizenship might be in heaven, gracious God, but our minds are firmly stuck on earthly things.

And so we hurry about, grasping for a sense of control wherever we can—

  • reorganizing our shelves, our calendars, our lives;
  • adopting healthy resolutions, beginning new diets, purchasing the latest self-help promotion;
  • imposing inconsequential rules on our children, setting unreasonable goals for ourselves, and failing to be satisfied with anything less than perfection;

We work extra hours,

draw tighter boundaries around our affections,

and guard our hearts.

There is just so much pain and brokenness in the world, in our own lives, and we just want a little leverage to lighten our load and the loads of those we love.

And yet, for all of our work, for all of our energy and effort, at the end of the day, so often we find that all we have accomplished is our own exhaustion and an increased distance between ourselves and the ones we love.

Our energy is flagging, our composure is faltering, and our faith is fraying.

And then we hear Your Word for us:

How often I have desired to gather You as a hen gathers her chicks beneath her wings. But You didn’t want that. (Luke 13:34)

Mothering God, source of our every breath, there are times when words are not sufficient.

Confronted with the magnitude and abundance of Your love, faced with Your yearning to gather us in, to enfold and uphold us, to protect and adore us, we are left with only a longing pang in our hearts, a shaky emptiness in our centers, and the deflating thought that we have pushed away what we wanted most.

Forgive us, patient God. Have mercy on us and continue to gather us up. As we lift before You this morning prayers for ourselves and for our world, lift also the illusion of control we have placed on our shoulders, that we might lay down our burdens and find rest in You.

Creating God, we pray for the natural world and for those affected by it. This morning, we pray particularly for those in Fiji who have lost everything in the most recent storm. May the fellowship of Your Spirit bring together support and supplies for those in need. We pray also for those affected by the Zika virus. Send Your healing Spirit amid those infected, uphold those whose children have been affected, and enlighten the minds of those searching for preventions and cures.

Maternal God, we pray for our world. For the places where violence shatters any sense of security, where peace seems closer to a dream than a reality, where the best that can be hoped for is far from good enough. Move in those places, persistent God, that Your way might yet become clear, and Your vision a much closer reality.

Amid the chaos of international violence and natural disasters, we both mourn and give thanks for the lives of those who strove for justice, opened our eyes to prejudices, and provided new lenses through which we might see the world, in particular, Justice Antonin Scalia, Harper Lee, and Umberto Eco.

And we pray for those in our midst. We celebrate with the N. family and give praise to You for new life and the birth of N. We mourn with the families of N. over the death of N. We lift up those who are recovering from surgery and illness, and we ask Your blessings upon those who are anticipating procedures and awaiting results. Surround and uphold all of those who are grieving and move through us that we might be Your hands and feet, Your soft eyes and kind words for the people in this congregation. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

Notes   [ + ]

1.Written for 10 a.m. worship at Winnetka Congregational Church on February 21, 2016, the second Sunday of Lent; Revised Common Lectionary, Year C
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