A prayer for discomfort

I’ve been feeling uncomfortable with myself lately because I am too comfortable. When people were going back to work and businesses were reopening, I stopped thinking about the pandemic everyday. I had adjusted to my new normal. I work from home five days a week in my quiet little corner office. My husband and I have been able to hike or run outside and enjoy the peacefulness and beauty of nature. I’ve even been able to go back to church wearing a mask.

Outside my bubble, people are still getting sick, people are still dying, people are still unemployed, people are still struggling financially. Doctors and nurses are still working really hard and risking their own health to save lives. Teachers and parents are worried about the safety of returning to school. People are still denying the deadliness of this disease and resisting efforts to slow the spread of the virus.

Also outside my bubble, there have been racial protests across the country and ongoing discussions of the uncomfortable reality of systemic racism and injustice. I read about white fragility to better understand how and why whites deny and perpetuate racism. I admit that I am privileged by my whiteness. That makes me uncomfortable. It is also uncomfortable to admit that I have been ignorant about the suffering and struggles of people of color. I have a heart for justice and would like to make a difference. But how? For me, it starts with facing the discomfort of the complicity of silence.

While I grapple with my feelings of discomfort, my church has been studying the life of Moses. One week, the pastor spoke about all the excuses Moses made about why he was not the right person to speak to Pharaoh. Who am I that you would send me? What will I tell them if they ask me ‘what is his name?’ What if they don’t believe me and won’t listen? But I’ve never been eloquent. I am slow of speech and tongue.

I am inspired by Moses because I can relate to his reluctance to speak. As an introvert, I am also slow of speech and tongue. It takes too long to formulate my thoughts into words. I worry about how people will respond to me. Will they even listen? Speaking out about uncomfortable topics takes courage. Speaking out means I have to get out of my comfort zone.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9

As much as I dislike being uncomfortable, I pray for discomfort. I want my heart to break for the things that break the heart of Jesus.

I have struggled to find the words to express what I’ve been feeling. A few weeks ago, I saw an unattributed prayer on Facebook that was called a Franciscan blessing. A blogger said that this prayer was written by a nun, Sister Ruth Marlene Fox. Her words beautifully express my internal struggle and reframe the struggle as a blessing.

A Non-traditional Blessing

May God bless you with a restless discomfort
about easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger
at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears
to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness
to believe that you really can make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

I have been blessed with a restless discomfort. I want to seek truth boldly and to love others deeply even if it is painful. I want to work for justice and equality for those who have been oppressed and exploited. I want to comfort those who suffer and to transform their pain into hope and joy. And yes, it may seem foolish to think that my words can make a difference in this world, but with God’s grace and guidance, they can.

A Prayer for Renewal

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:30-31

Heavenly Father, thank you for this week off from work. I nearly reached my breaking point this month. I asked for help over and over again and didn’t get it. I was ready to quit. It was like the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Lord, the last six months have been stressful. My dad died. A few days later, we moved to another state. In my haste to get back to work, I buried my grief. I went through another busy season at work. And just when things were looking brighter, the world was rocked by a pandemic. All of this has taken a toll on me.

Lord, You are always with me. You are my rock and my refuge. Renew my strength during this week of rest. I want to run and not grow weary. I want to walk and not be faint. But mostly, I want to be my normal helpful self, not a person who resents people for expecting too much of me.

God, grant me the serenity to live one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will.

Amen

****

Photo by Lars Kuczynski on Unsplash

A Prayer for My Country

Father, I have been struggling to put the prayer of my heart into words. As much as I want to believe that this country can be united by a shared interest in slowing the spread of the coronavirus, it is wishful thinking. Many people resent restrictions on their freedom even if the purpose is to protect the safety and well being of all of us. People are understandably worried about the survival of small businesses. People understandably want things to get back to normal. People are understandably tired of staying home.

I want to pray for unity but I am a realist. This country has been divided for years. Divided by ideology, divided by an “us versus them” mentality. The same issues and mindsets that divided us before this pandemic divide us now. The other side is still the enemy.

Lord, you told Isaiah to go and tell the people,
‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’
Make the hearts of this people calloused;
deafen their ears and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.

Father, I have no illusions that this is a Christian nation. It is a nation with millions of Christians who worship you in Spirit and in truth and millions who are Christian in name only. A vast majority has turned its back to You. They have other gods before You. The hearts of this nation are calloused. Otherwise, they might hear with their ears and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.

Lord, before there can be unity, there must be healing of hearts. I pray that You will use this pandemic to turn people to You. Help the people of this nation to see the truth with their eyes, to hear the truth with their ears, and to understand with their hearts.

Amen.

Photo by Hasan Almasi on Unsplash

A Prayer for Aching Hearts

Heavenly Father, thank you for my health and for the health of my loved ones. Lord, everyday I hear about widespread physical suffering and death from the coronavirus pandemic. It is not like anything we have experienced in our lifetimes. Lord, again I pray for doctors, nurses, and nurses aides who put their own health at risk to save lives. Again I pray for essential workers who risk their own health to provide essential goods and services to the public.

Lord, this global pandemic has caused more than physical suffering and financial woes. It has brought widespread heartache. In normal times, doctors and nurses and ministers learn to face the reality of suffering and death. My sister has made a career of caring for the elderly, including our mother. She has seen a lot of death. This pandemic is like nothing anyone has experienced.

When my mother-in-law was dying, we stood at her bedside in the hospital and held her hand as she struggled to breathe. We had the chance to say goodbye. When my mother lay dying in the nursing home, we gathered around her bedside as her organs failed. We kissed her face and held her hand and said our tearful goodbyes.

This is different. When a person is afflicted with a contagious disease, healthcare workers can only approach wearing masks and protective clothing. Doctors and nurses cannot extend a human touch of comfort. Loved ones cannot surround the dying in the last moments of life as we surrounded my mother with love.

Father, this is heartbreaking.

Lord, bless the hearts that break for others. Comfort those who must maintain physical distance to guard against infection, even as they long to comfort the afflicted. Be their personal protective shield against this virus. Give them strength to face each day.

God of mercy, hear my prayer. Amen

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Thank you, Jesus for walking with me

Lord Jesus, since I was a little girl, you have walked beside me wherever I go. Because you are with me, I will not lose heart. I am hard pressed on every side, but I am not crushed. I am struck down, but not destroyed. I am perplexed, but not driven to despair. I am ridiculed for your name’s sake, but not forsaken.

When you walk beside me, I am strong and courageous. I am not afraid. I am not discouraged.

Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.

I am comforted by your presence. I am encouraged by your presence. I am strengthened by your presence. My cup overflows.

Thank you, Jesus, my rock and my redeemer.

Amen.