two prayers of the people

Written by Joel on August 19th, 2009

Well, we made it to our new home in Virginia. We went from living in a city of 1 million, bordered by other cities of millions to a small town of only 225. My wife and I together increased the population by nearly a percentage point! There are many cultural differences, once of which I want to focus on in this post.

There is one part of the Sunday liturgy called “Prayers of the People.” Protestants may refer to it as “Prayer Concerns” or the “Pastoral Prayer.” At the Catholic Church a reader announces what we are praying for and the congregation responds with “Lord, hear our prayer,” or some other response. For example we pray for the end of the drought – Lord hear our prayer.

Nearly every Sunday where-ever we are worshiping, there is always a prayer concerning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Back in Pasadena, CA the prayer went something like this:

“We pray for the men and women who are deployed overseas and our also for our enemies. We pray for a just and lasting peace to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

And at the small town Catholic church (yes, they exist!): “We ask that you protect our soldiers who are fighting for our freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Did I mention this church posted an American flag in front of the sanctuary?


(Thanks to Craig Watts and Disciples World for the image idea. Read his related article here.)

Quite a difference. When I heard the new, small town prayer I was a bit taken back. What a self-serving, closed minded way to pray for soldiers. Of course it is a valid war if we are fighting for our freedom after all, and we should certainly beat the crap out of the enemy because they are against our freedom. There is no vision for peace with this mindset, just fight till the battle is won.

The first prayer shows awareness of Jesus’ command to pray for our enemies. I like it especially for the phrase “a lasting and just peace.” It is a prayer primarily for peace, but it exhibits a recognition that peace can be unjust. For example if an enemy is wiped off the face of the earth or harshly treated following the conflict; that is not a just peace.

So I encourage you to be discerning when writing Prayers of the People or saying the Pastoral Prayer. What are you really asking for?


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