As a pastor, I should know how to pray. At least that’s what people assume when they ask me to offer an opening prayer for a meeting, or a table grace at Thanksgiving, or an impromptu benediction as a guest in their church.
As a writer, I should know how to pour out my heart on the page–“you just open a vein and bleed” as sports columnist Red Smith once said.
But sometimes when I try to pray, I can’t seem to find the right words or to order them in a way that makes any sense. I can’t find the vein though I poke and prod and bruise both my arms.
At those times I find myself praying in wordless silence, knowing that God still hears me.
Be still, and know that I am God. – Psalm 46:10
to you even silence is praise – Psalm 65:1
We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans. – Romans 8:26
At other times, I find it helpful to draw on the words and prayers of others, and that’s where I find myself today as I pray for the desperate need of Syrian refugees.
Like many of you, I’ve been reading about this latest and growing crisis, I’ve been seeing the soul-searing pictures, I’ve been hearing about ways to respond with prayer, with financial giving, with refugee sponsorship. Yesterday in our worship, we issued a call for those willing to be part of a sponsoring group. Today I’m struggling to pray, and below are some of the resources that give words to my prayers. In each case, I’ve simply listed an excerpt, so for the entire prayer(s), please click on the link provided. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.
A Prayer for the People of Syria, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
Almighty eternal God, source of all compassion,
the promise of your mercy and saving help fills our hearts with hope.
Hear the cries of the people of Syria;
bring healing to those suffering from the violence,
and comfort to those mourning the dead.
Empower and encourage Syria’s neighbors
in their care and welcome for refugees.
Convert the hearts of those who have taken up arms,
and strengthen the resolve of those committed to peace.
Prayer for Peace in Syria and Beyond, World Council of Churches:
God of love and care, as Jesus embraced little children before his death, embrace the children of Syria, Iraq and Libya with your loving and healing touch. We pray that they may have a chance to dream of the future and experience security and peace. We pray that they may have an opportunity to enjoy the same rights as other children – the right to be a child. When they are scared and tremble in fear, O God, hold them tight in your embrace. We pray for young men and women who consider joining terrorist groups, enlighten their mind with your wisdom and their heart with your love, so they may see your image in every person they encounter and that you desire peace not war, life for all and not deadly threat.
Prayer for Peace for Syria, Catholic Relief Services:
For Syrian community leaders that they understand the importance of their role and do what they can to ensure justice and peace, while protecting the most vulnerable, we pray to the Lord.
For all communities, help us to be bearers of peace in our own communities as we walk with our sisters and brothers in Syria and around the world, so that we all will be called peacemakers and children of God, we pray to the Lord.
Prayers for Syria, The Church of England:
We pray for those damaged by the fighting in Syria.
To the wounded and injured:
Come Lord Jesus.
To the terrified who are living in shock:
Come Lord Jesus.
To the hungry and homeless, refugee and exile:
Come Lord Jesus.
Prayer for People Affected by Conflict in Syria, World Vision:
Lord, come to the aid of families who are fleeing to safety. Protect them from dangers on their travels and guide them to places where they can find help and rest. Provide host communities with the resources to assist families arriving on their doorstep. Lord, we trust in You.
Prayer Resources for Syria, Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand:
We pray for the people of Syria,
especially those who have lost homes and families.
Inspire our global family to play our part
so that the people of Syria can rebuild their lives without fear.
A Prayer for Immigrants and Refugees, Adapted from Justice for Immigrants:
Help us to remember
that when we speak of immigrants and refugees,
we speak of Christ.
In the One who had no place to lay his head,
and in the least of his brothers and sisters,
you come to us again, a stranger seeking refuge.
Prayer for Refugees, Revised Common Lectionary Prayers:
God, the refuge of wanderers and exiles,
the mother and father of the homeless,
you weep with those who are uprooted from their homeland,
and you suffer with those who exist without shelter and security.
Prayer for Peace in Syria, Aid to the World in Need:
God of hope,
Inspire leaders to choose peace over violence and to seek reconciliation with their enemies
Inflame the Universal Church with compassion for the people of Syria
And give us hope for a future built on justice for all
We ask this through Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace and Light of the world.
This article is part of a September MennoNerds Synchro-Blog on the Middle-Eastern Refugee Crisis.
If you’re aware of other helpful prayers, please feel free to add them or leave a link in the comments.