Praying for relief from our suffering

by Mary Ann McGivern

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I just got this prayer for rain on the Internet.

Dear Heavenly Father,
You said whatsoever any two or more come together and agree and ask in Your Son's name, it shall be given. We come to you, humbly, and ask that you bring down the rain to our parched lands. Our farmers and ranchers need it desperately, as well as our firefighters. We ask this all in Jesus' name.

I immediately prayed this prayer. And I share it with you. I love Jesus' invitation to ask for what we want and I join with the victims of drought in wanting rain for them. But at the same time, I thought some contrition for our damage to the earth and our role in climate change would be appropriate. I began to rewrite the prayer.

Public prayer is political. Do we say Heavenly Father or Gracious God? Do we petition only for our own needs or do we include the foreigner? What do we repent and what do we propose to amend? How do we express our own strong desires without offending others in the congregation? Here's my first take.

Gracious God,
I humbly confess that I have used water carelessly. I have wasted food and energy. I have driven when I could have walked or taken the bus. I am deeply sorry for my misuse of your gifts. I am grateful for your gift of rain and I promise to be a better steward of your gifts. Please pour down rain in Texas and Oklahoma. I ask in Jesus' name.

But what about the flood victims in New Orleans and all along the Gulf and East Coast? The starving people in Somalia? Those suffering from war in Iraq and Afghanistan? It's well and good to be specific about my own sins, but how do I make it a common prayer? Of course, the 10-year anniversary of Sept. 11 is also on my mind. How can we engage in public prayer at this moment without including 9/11? And if I pray for all these suffering people, believers from many faiths and unbelievers too, should I invoke Jesus? I tried again.

Tree that we lean against for shelter, thank you for our homes; we beg you to protect the homeless; forgive us for being blind to their need.
Tall ship that sails on the breath of the spirit, thank you for the gift of water; we beg you to carry flooded families to safe harbor; forgive us for our waste of your water and your grace.
Cloud of unknowing, thank you for the signs and graces that you give us; we beg you to pour rain on this parched earth; forgive us for our greedy use of fossil fuels.
Fertile field, thank you for our harvest; we beg you to feed your starving children; forgive us for failing to share what we have.
Burning bush, thank you for searing our souls with knowledge of you; we beg you to melt our weapons and forge plows; forgive us for our arrogant use of force.

What is your prayer?

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