A Prayer for Those Who Govern, incorporating verses of America the Beautiful

mlk prayer pilgrimage

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the 1957 ‘Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom’.

A Prayer for Those Who Govern
ALL SINGING: America the Beautiful
United Methodist Hymnal #969, first verse

O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!

ONE:
Lord of All,
As we draw near another Independence Day,
we confess our dependence on you.
Thank you for extending abundance, mercy, and protection
to our nation through the years.
Every resource, freedom, and opportunity we have is a good gift from you.
Without you, we are lost.

ALL:
In humility, we seek your face.
In repentance, we turn from our ungrateful, destructive and selfish ways.
In faith, we call on your power to forgive our sin and heal our land.

ALL SINGING: America the Beautiful
United Methodist Hymnal #969, second verse

O beautiful for heroes prov’d in liberating strife,
Who more than self their country lov’d, and mercy more than life.
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness and ev’ry gain divine.

ONE:
Pour out your Holy Spirit on those who govern our land,
Leaders of our nation, our state, and our community
and all who are running for office.

Grant them a love of justice.
Open their minds with wisdom and compassion,
so all people may be treated fairly and with dignity.

Open their ears to the cries of the desperate and powerless
so cycles of poverty, disease, and abuse may be broken.

Open their eyes to see how best to respond
and open their hearts with courage to do the right thing,
even when pressured to do otherwise.

Dawn a new day of integrity and servant leadership upon our land.
Shower down your Spirit of collaboration for the common good
that there may be lasting peace and plenty for all.

The congregation is invited to lift up their own prayers for our nation

ONE:
We ask this in the name of Jesus, our Leader and Savior forever, Amen.

Option: We ask this in the name of Jesus, our Leader and Savior forever, who taught us to pray, Our Father, who art in heaven….

ALL SINGING: America the Beautiful
United Methodist Hymnal #969, fourth verse

O beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.

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For other prayers suitable for Independence Day try A Prayer for our Country or Independence Day Prayer or A prayer of examen for our national holiday, all by Steve Garnaas-Holmes.

America the Beautiful by Katherine Lee Bates and Samuel A. Ward.
Public Domain.

A Prayer for Those Who Govern © 2012 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution. Leave a comment for posting and publication considerations.

God of Abundance, Provision, Plenty (Genesis 13)

biryanni dish on round stainless steel tray

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Based on Genesis 13
Abraham and Lot end their conflict peaceably
God’s generous promise to Abraham of land and children

You are the God of Abundance
God of Provision and Plenty
Generous Creator and Sustainer

Yet
So many do not have enough
So many are burdened by too much
So many squander what they have
So many do evil to get more
Corruption, Injustice, Oppression, Greed, Graft, Violence…
Fear-filled Competition

Lord, have mercy

Help me choose You and your ways
Gratitude for all you entrust to me
Collaboration over competition
True love of those I’m working with
Eyes to see all people as you see them… beloved

Forgive and heal my fears when there doesn’t seem to be enough
You know my worry and lack of faith

God of Abundance
I trust you to provide everything I need
and everything others need
Increase my faith and trust
Help me approach every need and conflict
with fairness, generosity, openness
Help me see all you are providing
Help me hear and listen to all you are saying
Your ways, always. Amen

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God of Abundance, Provision, Plenty © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

A Heap of Empty Words (Matthew 6)

words pile scraps

Matthew 6:7-8
Jesus said, “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

You are there in the midst of my prattle
and my hiding

Thank you for your patient presence
Thank you for calling me again to what is deeper and true

Forgive me for defaulting to well-worn words
Empty language borrowed from ritual or even scripture
Help me come to you honest and real
nothing veiled, nothing hidden
Help me come to you present and fresh
new every morning

Matthew 6:9-10
Jesus said, “Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Glory to You, Heavenly One
Abba, Maker, Creator
I long for your kingdom, the fullness of your grace and victory

The longing is a sign of you in me
Abide more and more, so I not only long but look and see
Abide forever, so I not only long but pray and speak and act
Full-filling your words
now mine

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A Heap of Empty Words © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

A Prayer Inspired by the Beatitudes (Matthew 5)

beatitudes 3

Matthew 5:1-12 NRSV
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
  • Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
  • Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Jesus,
We receive your blessings and pray for the Holy Spirit to make them real in our lives.

Renew a right spirit within us, a poor spirit, a spirit which knows our deep need of your grace and deliverance. Free us from trying to save ourselves. Free us for the fullness of your kingdom.

Soften our hard hearts with the gift of tears. Help us mourn our brokenness and the brokenness of our world. Help us feel it fully. Help us welcome the refreshment of your comfort and share it well with others.

Generous Savior, you fill each person with gifts, talents, and strength. Open us to meekness, that we may gladly surrender them to your authority and discipline. In our hands, they are often weapons. With you, they are refined for your glory and the common good.

Bread of Life, sour every false and destructive appetite, that we may hunger and thirst for righteousness alone- a right relationship with you, a right relationship with others, a right relationship with ourselves, a right relationship with your creation.

We bless you and honor you for your unending mercy, a flood of grace, pouring out and spilling over. Make us mercy-full. May all people know you like this.

Suffering One, break our hearts as yours is broken. In the breaking, create in us clean hearts, pure hearts, undivided hearts. Our deepest desire is to see you at work in us and all around us and to one day see you face to face.

In your grace, please don’t stop with our hearts. Re-Birth us fully in the breaking and creating. Named your beloved, your children, forever.

Make us
One with you and each other
One in your great work of peace
One in your words and ways
One in commitment to reconciliation and righteousness
One in the face of falsehood
One in the bloody bonds of persecution
One in your joy
One in your promises
One on earth and one in heaven
Amen

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A Prayer Inspired by the Beatitudes © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Three Reflections on Betrayal, Denial, and Forgiveness (Matthew 26)

peter judas betray deny

Extended Quote from Destination: Known, Readings for Holy Week in the Upper Room Disciplines (2012) by Thomas R. Steagald
Sometimes in our familiarity and haste, we bypass verses of scripture. Because we already know the story of who “betrayed” Jesus, our attention in this passage [John 13:21-32] jumps quickly ahead to the conversation between Jesus and Simon Peter, the piece of bread, and Judas’s leaving the meal to meet with the religious officials.

But what of verse 22: “The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking?” …

Could it be that each of the disciples is humble enough, uncertain enough, to know that given the right set of circumstances or stressors, any one of them has it within him to do what Judas would in fact do?…

For only those who love Jesus can betray him. His enemies might hate him; others might disregard or ignore him, but only those who sit at the table can get up and leave, and only those close enough to kiss him can give the kiss of death. That Judas is the one who guided the soldiers to Gethsemane on fresh-washed feet, his breath smelling of sacrament, is a particular instance of what is possible for all disciples.

It is unfortunate that we so quickly rush to blame Judas, so quickly leave him and this verse of scripture behind; for indeed, this Holy Week calls us to examine ourselves, to hear Jesus’ prediction, uncertain of whom else he might be speaking.

Forgive me, Lord, when I turn away from you and your purposes. Amen.

Matthew 26:21-35
Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” And they began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?” … Then Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters because of me this night.” Peter said to him, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And so said all the disciples.

The Seat of Greatest Grace by Steve Garnaas Holmes
Jesus, my Friend,
my Beloved, my Person,
I love you, and I will falter.
I will deny you. I will betray you.
Three times, ten thousand times
I will deny you.
The silver pieces lie in my pocket
I have the nails
And you, knowing, invite me to your table,
to the place of honor even,
this seat of greatest grace,
beside you,
to share your bread with me,
and lay down your body for me
I can hardly look into the sun
of such forgiveness,
love’s empty tomb
that defeats me,
re-makes me.

I confess. I return.
Knowing, I follow,
drawn in your grace,
this burden that is light.

Matthew 26:74-75
Then Peter began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment the cock crowed. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Denial, by Steve Garnaas Holmes
I deny you, Christ,
when I deny my own divinity.
I deny you when I deny
the divinity of those I condemn.
I deny you when I do not hear you
in the oppressed and rejected.
I deny you when I turn
from my glorious giftedness.
I deny you when I am afraid
to stand with those at risk.
I deny you when in my guilt
I doubt your love.
And still, you love.

Let remembering’s bitterness awaken me.
Let my weeping be my wisdom.

To the frightening, to the infinite,
to the compassionate, to the holy,
help me say yes.

Let me die with yes on my lips.

I am grateful for the writing ministry of Steve Garnaas Holmes. His work inspires me, challenges me, and draws me close to God. Find more of his work at www.unfoldinglight.net and consider subscribing. 

7 Prayers for General Conference 2019

umc_prays_logo_final-690x380

The General Conference, the decision-making body of the United Methodist Church, will be meeting in St. Louis Missouri starting today. They will be considering the greater inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons in the leadership and life of our UMC tradition. There are faithful people with diverse points of view who will be making these decisions and millions more watching and waiting. It is a mile marker moment in our life together and we’re feeling it. 

Thank you for praying with us and for us. – Lisa <>< 

Prayer 1 for General Conference: Surrender
Read Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25

In light of General Conference, what would it be like to turn toward Jesus and place everything in His healing hands? All you are planning and working for. All you are feeling and longing for. If you’re willing to do this by the grace of God and invite all at General Conference to do the same, please join me in this prayer.

Your Healing Hands by Lisa Degrenia
Jesus, Resurrected One
Light of New Life
Breaker of Chains
Bringer of Grace and Hope

You are moving, speaking, inviting

We hear your call to repentance
The turning will save us

We hear your Good News
The trusting will save us

We place every need into your healing hands
our loved ones, our enemies, ourselves
our work, our congregations, our denomination
our community, our nation, our world
our hopes, our security, our failures, our future

We place every need into your healing hands
We will find rest and wholeness there
We will find life, now and forever
Hallelujah! Glory to your Holy Name!

Prayer 2 for General Conference: Confession
Read Mark 6:1-5

It is far too easy to dismiss persons with a different point of view. To label, judge, ridicule, blame. To build the dividing walls of us and them, winners and losers, faithful and sinner, insider and outsider. How have you done this? Will you confess your contempt and invite all at General Conference to do the same? 

Confessing Contempt by Lisa Degrenia
Contempt is so painful
To be dismissed, disregarded
Questioning instead of dignity
Accusation instead of personhood

I have felt its sting and hollowness
As have you, my Jesus
Heal my wound

I have wielded this weapon, fully conscious of its destructive power
You never have, my Jesus
Forgive me and heal all I have hurt

Make my ways like yours, my Jesus
Deliver me from a spirit of demonizing, suspicion, and contempt
Help me hear their needed messages
Help me see all as you see them, beloved, and needed
Especially those who are different from me
Especially those who are hard to love

I am most ashamed of aiming contempt at you, my Jesus
I have failed in your command to love
I am so very sorry
Forgive me, renew me, abide in me so there is
More of my true me
More of you and your ways
More of your grace extended through me
For the healing of the world

1 John 1:9 NRSV
If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Prayer 3 for General Conference: Joy
Read 1 Chronicles 16:23-27 (NRSV)

Nehemiah 8:10
… the joy of the Lord is your strength.

What are you feeling concerning General Conference? Fear, hope, determination, confusion, pain… Would you dare to feel joy? To sing and shout God’s greatness and glory. To claim again God’s steadfast character and presence. If you desire the Lord’s joy to be your strength and long for all at General Conference to do the same, please join me in this prayer.

Your Joy is our Strength by Lisa Degrenia
Wondrous God
Father-Son-Spirit
Your joy is our strength
Nothing more
Nothing less
Nothing else
Grant us grace to receive you and your joy
Grant us grace to trust it above all other powers and plans
Grant us grace to bear it and share it as generously as you
For the honor is yours
The majesty is yours
and Your kingdom is at hand
Amen

Prayer 4 for General Conference: Power
Matthew 3:11, NRSV
John the Baptist said, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

If you desire the power of the Holy Spirit for yourself and for all at General Conference, please join me in this prayer.

Come Holy Spirit by Lisa Degrenia
Come Holy Spirit
Come again as cleansing fire, burning away all that is false and fruitless

Come Holy Spirit
Come again as guiding fire, lighting the way through our wilderness

Come Holy Spirit
Come again as refining fire, purifying our words, our ways, and our hearts

Come Holy Spirit
Come again as prophetic fire, calling us to courage and action

Come Holy Spirit
Come again as surprising fire, dancing atop every believer, breaking down barriers, opening lips with Good News

Come Holy Spirit
Come again as empowering fire, inspiring us, emboldening us to use your gifts to bless and bring your Kingdom

Come Holy Spirit
Come again as unifying fire, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Amen.

Prayer 5 for General Conference: Likeness of Christ
Luke 19:41-42a, NRSV
As Jesus came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace!”

As we grow more and more into the likeness of Christ, what breaks his heart breaks ours, what he desires for all people becomes our desire. If you desire to receive these gifts for yourself and for all at General Conference, please join me in this prayer.

Prayer for a Broken Heart by Lisa Degrenia
Break our hearts, Jesus
That we may weep as You weep
Love as You love

Break our hearts Jesus and raise our voices
that we may speak and act so all may be safe
so all may have opportunity
so all may know belonging

Lord Jesus
Take away our fear, our apathy, our silence

Grant us
Your courage, Your strength,
Your perseverance, Your heart

That we may be Your sanctuary
Your safe and sanctified place of presence

That we may live Your justice
and use Your power with wisdom and humility

That we may be Your whole and holy people
A people of integrity

That we may speak and act and love
again and again and again
till every dividing wall of hate, fear, and mistrust
comes crashing down in Your Powerful Name

Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, Savior of the Nations,
teach us to pray and teach us to live Your prayer…

Conclude with the Lord’s Prayer

Prayer 6 for General Conference: Humility
Read 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, NRSV

Our humility helps all involved experience the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit. If you desire to receive this gift for yourself and for all at General Conference, please join me in this prayer.

The Humble Way by Lisa Degrenia
Jesus, you are gentle, lowly, vulnerable
You choose to be with us in our weakness
You win the world with your love, sacrifice, and humility

Your power is made perfect in
our weakness
our transparency
our vulnerability
our surrender
our honesty with our dusty condition

Free us from posing as experts with all the answers
Free us from silver-tongued speech
Free us from human conceiving and scheming

Let us know nothing with certainty other than the eternal truth
that you are the Anointed One, the Liberating King,
who was crucified on our behalf

We receive you and your saving
We welcome your wisdom and offering
We entrust all you have given us back into your hands
We rely on you, Holy Spirit, to demonstrate your power
that our faith, the faith of those we serve, the faith of those yet to believe
may be rooted in you alone. Amen

Prayer 7 for General Conference: Peace
Jesus tells the story of the Religious Teacher (Pharisee) and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:9-14 so that those who have a heart of war may receive the gift of a heart of peace. The first steps to receiving this gift are honesty, transparency, confessing our need and our desire for a heart of peace to replace our heart of war.

If you desire a heart of peace and desire a heart of peace for all at General Conference, please join me in this prayer.

Heart of Peace by Lisa Degrenia
Jesus, You are the Great Physician coming to those in need of healing.
You are the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world.
You are the Prince of Peace offering all a heart of peace.

Jesus, we bow in wonder at the expanse of your embrace,
the breadth of your inclusion,
the surprise of your grace.
You seek and seek and seek,
including those we write off as beyond hope.
You even include me.

Forgive me, Jesus.
Forgive me for forgetting who you are.
For forgetting who I am in you.

Forgive and heal my wounds.
Forgive and heal my brokenness, my sin.

Forgive me for judging.
Forgive my hurtful words and actions.
Forgive my self-righteousness.

Forgive me Jesus for limiting you.
I am so desperately in need of you.

Create in me a clean heart and renew your Holy Spirit within me.
Create in me a heart of peace.
I open myself to your gift
and pray all your people will receive it as well.
Amen.

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7 Prayers for General Conference © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Contempt, a prayer of confession based on Mark 6

contempt painting by faun manne

Contempt Painting by Faun Manne

Mark 6:1-5, The rejection of Jesus
He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.

Contempt is so painful
To be dismissed, disregarded
Questioning instead of dignity
Accusation instead of personhood

I have felt its sting and hollowness
As have you, my Jesus
Heal my wound

I have wielded this weapon fully conscious of its destructive power
You never have, my Jesus
Forgive me and heal all I have hurt

Make my ways like yours, my Jesus
Deliver me from a spirit of judgment, criticism, and contempt
Help me hear their needed messages
Help me see all as you see them, beloved, and needed
Especially those who are hard to love

I am most ashamed of aiming contempt at you, my Jesus
I am so very sorry
Forgive me, renew me, abide in me so there is
More of my true me
More of you and your ways
More of your grace extended through me
For the healing of the world

1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

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Contempt, a prayer of confession © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.