Another week, another disaster. This week, it was human-made as 59 people were killed and nearly 500 injured in Las Vegas. As I’ve observed before, we are so creative in our ways of killing one another. But this week, we are also seeing revised numbers of the death toll from Hurricane Maria as contact is finally being made with the remotest parts of Puerto Rico. As I write this, parts of the Gulf Coast have been evacuated again – this time for Hurricane Nate.
Psalm 46:10 is one of the most recognized in Scripture. It is a word of comfort and invitation to rest. In Enough, I reflected on this invitation to be still and know that God is indeed God. But I also realized that the context within Psalm 46 and the Hebrew make this a command rather than an invitation. In the Common English Bible Psalm 46:10 is translated this way:
“That’s enough! Now know that I am God!”
Whether you hear God’s words as an invitation to rest – whispered quietly as you seek refuge in the loving arms of God – or as a command – spoken with authority, forcing you to stop focusing on disaster – may this prayer help guide you into God’s presence.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. (1-3)
God our refuge, we are almost to the point of being overwhelmed by the shaking earth and the roaring seas. The devastation of hurricanes, earthquakes, and wild fires continues to be revealed. We cannot comprehend the trauma that continues as people continue to dig through rubble, remove trash from the flood-soaked homes, return to scorched earth, and struggle with the loss or scarcity of the most basic necessities of life. Necessities that we can so easily take for granted. We pray that your power would strengthen both victims and responders. We pray that your presence would be heavy in the midst of trouble. May people experience:
a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns. (4-5)
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; God utters a holy voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. (6-7)
We contemplate your promise of refuge in silence.
Come, behold the works of the LORD; see what desolations God has brought on the earth. God makes wars cease to the end of the earth; breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; burns the shields with fire. (8-9)
Jesus, prince of peace, we pray for the day when you destroy war and violence. But this morning, that day seems far away. Wars and rumors of wars fill every news cycle. We once again stand silent in the face of a mass shooting. It seems that it is humanity itself that breaks and shatters. Once again, we are overwhelmed by the terror of such violence. Once again, we feel frozen by both our grief and our guilt. Once again, we wonder if there is hope. O God of the ages, what words do you have for us?
“Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.”
We contemplate your holy presence in silence.
The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. (11)
May chaos be replaced with calm as we become still in your presence.
May fear be replaced with hope as we trust in your refuge.
May peace come upon the earth.
In anticipation of the day when violence and destruction will be no more, we join our voices praying the familiar words of Jesus, saying: Our Father…
If you are interested in more prayers like this, consider checking out my book:
Prayers for the People: Scripturally Based Prayers for WorshipPrayers for the People is a collection of prayers for worship. These prayers offer the worshipping community fresh perspectives for praying the words of Scripture, using current language and references. Cross-referenced to the Revised Common Lectionary, pastors seeking to lead their people in prayer have found a relevant and beautiful source for worship planning.