A voice says, “Cry out!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?” (Isaiah 40:6)
There are times when words fail us, when we search for what to say but crying out or sighing must suffice.
Yet there are also times we can turn to crafted words we have come to know through scripture and the church’s liturgy: “We confess that we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves.” “Have mercy on us.” “O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending…”
We pray in all times and circumstances but the specific words we use evolve over time. These changes reflect the needs of the church that is always “beset by change, but Spirit-led” (ELW 729). The forthcoming worship resource, All Creation Sings, includes a section of “Prayers, Thanksgivings, and Laments.” These prayers for assembly and devotional use address a number of topics and circumstances for our time. These include the health of our planetary home, but also the health of our relationships in church, family and society. Page ten of the preview for All Creation Sings provides a brief outline of the topics addressed.
In several instances the prayers may be contextualized by adding a name, country, or situation. When we need the words in a given moment, such prayers give us a beginning point from which we make the prayer speak to a particular time or situation.
Many of you know that the ELCA’s publishing ministry, 1517 Media, is located in Minneapolis. As employees gathered online to pray after the murder of George Floyd, the following prayers from All Creation Sings gave us words for this moment.
Rise up and come to our help, merciful God, for we are in need. Our spirits are weighed down with fear; our bodies feel as fragile as the dust from which we came. All that we have trusted seems hidden from sight. Although this moment has come upon our nation/city, you have not forgotten us. We do not trust in our own power or strength, but in your steadfast love in every generation. Show us your face in this time of trial, remind us of your faithfulness, and save us for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, your own mother looked on when your life ended in violence. Our hearts are pierced with grief and anger at the death of (George Floyd). We commend him to your wounded hands, and his loved ones to your merciful heart, trusting only in the promise that your love is stronger than death, and that even now, you live and reign forever and ever. Amen.
Our prayer, in and with all creation, includes such words and melodies of lament, of indignation, of pleading, and ultimately of hope in God’s presence and mercy. In the months and years ahead, we hope the prayers included in this new resource will give the church needed words for the moments when we ask, “What shall we cry?”