Reform our deformed lives

The words are familiar to us and we are filled with yearning.
So we say them glibly, passionately, filled with hope—
liberty, mercy, freedom, release, grace, peace.
We have some fleeting notion of what we must have
in order to live our lives fully
And we have some wistful certitude that these gifts
are given only by you,
you with the many names …
you … holy, merciful, just, long-suffering, forgiving,
demanding, promising.
We gather ourselves together to subsume our hopes
under your rich names.

We name you by your name, harbinger of liberty:
hear our prayers for liberty. 

    We are mindful of those caught, trapped, held, imprisoned by systems of enslavement and abuse, by ideas and ideologies that demean and immobilize, by unreal hopes and ungrounded fears. We ourselves know much of un-liberty, too wounded, too obedient, too driven, too fearful. Be our massive way of emancipation and let us all be free at last.”

We name you by your name, power of peace:
hear our prayers for peace. 

    We dare ask for the middle wall of hostility to be broken down, between liberals and conservatives in the church, between haves and have-nots, between victims and perpetrators, between all sorts of colleagues in this place, and in all those arenas besot with violence, rage, and hate. We know we are not meant for abusiveness, but we stutter before our vocation as peacemakers. Transform us beyond our fearfulness, our timidity, our excessive certitude, that we may be vulnerable enough to be peacemakers, and so to be called your very own children.

We name you by your name, fountain of mercy:
hear our prayer for mercy. 

    Our world grows weary of the battering and the vicious cycles that devour us. We seem to have no capacity to break those vicious cycles of anti-neighborliness and self-hate. We turn, like our people always have, to you, single source of newness. Waiting father, in your mercy receive us and all our weary neighbors. Remembering mother, hold us and all our desperate friends. Passionate lover, in your mercy cherish all our enemies. Gift giver, in your mercy embrace all those who are strangers to us, who are your well-beloved children. Make us, altogether, new.

Hear our prayers for liberty, for peace, for mercy.
Form us in freedom and wholeness and gentleness.
Reform our deformed lives toward
obedience which is our only freedom,
praise which is our only poetry,
and love which is our only option.
Our confidence matches our need, so we pray to you. Amen.

Written originally for Columbia Theological Seminary on January 13, 1994. Excerpted from Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers of Walter Brueggemann (pp. 115 – 116), Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002.

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· Last Featured on April 2022