Prayer of Intercession
The "pastoral prayer" was a weekly responsibility I loved and anticipated. I would write the pastoral prayer either late Saturday night or in the early hours of Sunday morning before anyone came to church. Not so in Santa Barbara. Here there is a practice of rotating the intercessory prayer among lay persons who volunteer to pray for the church. At first I felt robbed of this privilege, but over the years it has become true joy. Each week a different person with a different voice and different words puts the needs and concerns of the church before God. There are some Sundays when I am tempted to stand up after the prayer and offer the benediction and send everyone home.
On Sunday September 14 Dr. Paul Willis, member and professor of English at Westmont College led the prayer of intercession. I was so moved by that prayer that I asked Paul if I could share it with you. He agreed and it is posted below.
14 September 2008
Montecito Covenant Church
Prayer of Intercession
Here we are, Lord. Another pretty nice day here. We get used to them—these nice days—we have so many in Santa Barbara. As we think about Carla’s fiancé, it is hard to imagine being attacked by snipers in Afghanistan.
And yet this business of shooting at one another is not hard to imagine after all. Because, as usual, we are disagreeing about lots of things. And when we disagree, we do not like each other, not very much. It’s election season, and that has a way of bringing some of our disagreements to a head, and of personalizing our disagreements.
Help us to get through this season by your grace. Help us to listen to one another, to love one another—and when we offend, as we often do, to forgive each other.
Help us to speak carefully, to be charitable in our understandings of one another, to assume not the worst but the best.
Help us to admit when we’re wrong; help us not to tell each other so when we’re right. Keep before us the strange way in which you, Jesus, got it right—by getting yourself nailed to a cross. Help us to take up that cross on behalf of one another. Help us to trust that you will help us carry that cross, because you already carried it when it carried you.
Every day, Lord, every day in Santa Barbara, in Afghanistan, we are still crossing the Red Sea with the Israelites of old. And you are holding back the waters on the left and on the right, and we don’t even know it. And you are interposing your pillar of cloud between us and our enemies, and we don’t even know it. We trudge along, pushing and shoving, complaining that our fellow travelers are too fast, too slow, and yet you clog the wheels of the chariots that so hotly pursue us.
Why is it that you even bother? What is it that you like about us? Why is it that you died for us when we are so busy assassinating one another in person and in reputation? What manner of love is this, Lord, and how might we learn it from you?
Forgive us for being such poor neighbors. Thank you that you yet remain in our neighborhood. Remain with us still, Lord. Abide with us. The evening hastens. Abide with us.
We pray in the name of Christ and for his sake. Amen.