I was asked by my City Councilor Matt O’Malley (a politician proficient at using social media to connect with the people he serves- and a great example for religious leaders to follow!) as a constituent to offer a prayer of invocation before the Boston City Council began their work on Wednesday October 9,2013. I asked my Facebook feed what they would pray for in this setting; many of those responses were incorporated into the prayer I wrote. I share this as an example of one way for Christians to pray in public in multi-faith settings.
Between the federal government shutdown, a mayoral election, busses and budgets and a blessing over Fenway, I think we’ve got plenty to pray for today!
My name is Rev. Laura Everett, I have the great privilege of serving at the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, a statewide network of individuals, congregations and Christian denominations convinced that what binds us together at the Church is stronger than anything that divides us. In the days following the Boston Marathon bombing, we worked to coordinate the inter-religious response. Last Sunday, I guest preached in South Walpole Methodist Church, the Sunday before that at Grace Episcopal Church in Great Barrington, and the Sunday before that at first Congregational West Tisbury, but I am a proud resident of Ward 11, Precinct 8 in the city of Boston. I want you to know that in every church I visit, everywhere I go, the people pray for those in elected office and positions of power. Know that you are held in these prayers.
My father’s side of the family has deep history in Boston, though I grew up in New Jersey. And like many Bostonians, I came here for school and never left. On a very personal note, nothing did more to make me an engaged citizen in love with this city than beginning to move through it by bike. Before, I could keep to myself and my head in my newspaper or phone on the T. By bike, I see the new playground getting built day by day at Jackson Square. By bike, I cannot avert my eyes from the men who live in all weather tucked behind the transformers along the Southwest Corridor. By bike, I ride past the Boston Police Department and pray for the safety of our city. And the women blocking the bike lane, pushing their grocery carts full of scavenged recycled cans in the opposite direction of traffic, give me a chance to practice compassion. I ride with the transplants, and the students and the new immigrants who ride because they cannot afford a car. By bike, I actually see this city and the people in it, rather than rushing past. Thank you for the many ways you make this possible for more Bostonians.
Each Sunday, many Protestants and Roman Catholic Christians will read and preach on the same scripture texts. This Sunday, we’ll hear of Jesus healing the 10 lepers and the only one who comes back to thank him is the migrant, the marginalized Samaritan. Another reading is from the prophet Jeremiah, chapter 29. Jeremiah is speaking to a weary people in exile, far from the city of their origin, Jerusalem. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God tells the people “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
Seek the welfare of the city. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. From the very earliest times, our prophets know- our individual welfare is inextricably linked to the welfare of us all. As you are led, will you join with me in prayer?
We pause before the work of this day to confess, to give thanks, to share our burdens, and to pray for our city and these city councilors.
We confess the ways we have become weary and worn by a political process more often marked by venom than by grace. We confess our participation our national idolatry of guns and the stranglehold of violence in our mind, in our hearts, in our streets and in our homes. We confess the ways we too grow resigned to the way things are and systems that refuse to change.
Holy One, save us from weak resignation. Remind us of our power to seek the welfare of this city.
We acknowledge the many burdens we carry into this work. Attend to them, O God. We give thanks for the communities that support us, the spouses, friends, neighbors and loved ones who sacrifices so that we may be here this day. Bless them.
We pray for all elected officials entrusted with the holy calling of public service. Keep them pure in heart. We pray for those running for elected office. We pray for Barack our president, Deval our governor, and Tom our mayor. We pray especially for Congress, that you might intervene in hearts that have grown hardened.
We pray for the residents of this city and the constituents we serve.
For all those seeking full, meaningful employment, we pray for work.
For all those seeking education, we pray for powerful teachers
For all those seeking peace, train us to work for justice.
We grieve with all those who grieve in this city, remembering those who have been killed this year in Boston: Anthony Spaulding, Jonathan Reyes, Carly Jones, Rayshawn Lamont, Corey Thompson, Courtney W. Jackson, Thaddeus Clark, Edward Villalona, Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu, Joel D. Phillips, Clifton Townsend, Malcolm Campbell, Maiqui Hernandez, Misbam Wiggins, Tremayne Jackson, Steven Jones, Lloyd Powell, Brianna Bigby, Jordan Miller, Jajuan Griffin, Erick Pierre-Louis, Felix Garcia, Brian Tirado, Ana Cruz, Melissa Hardy and two men whose names are known to you alone.
Holy One, bless the work that is before this city council today. May ever decision we make, every phone call we pick up, every email we respond to this day be done with generosity of spirit. Turn us again, reorient our hearts. Remind us of the truth of Jeremiah that in the welfare of the city, we will find our own welfare. In all we do, in all we say, may we seek the welfare of this city.
We know you by many names, I pray in the powerful name of Jesus the Christ. Amen.