How to Pray for the Syrian Refugee Crisis When You Can’t Find the Words

Links updated August 2020

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

How to Pray for the Syrian Refugee Crisis

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.

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 Church 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.


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8 thoughts on “How to Pray for the Syrian Refugee Crisis When You Can’t Find the Words

  1. Dear April, thank you so much for this post. It will be invaluable as I lead worship this week. I attach a prayer below by Claire Welch, taken from the website All We Can formerly the Methodist Relief and Development Fund –

    A prayer for refugees

    God creator of all,
    For people who are displaced,
    may they find a safe refuge.

    For people who have lost control of their lives,
    may they know a sure foundation.

    For people who live in fear,
    may they be given a strong fortress.

    For people who are disillusioned,
    may they have hope in a future.

    Loving father in times of crisis, sorrow and uncertainty
    we ask that you draw near.


    Claire Welch

    1. Thanks, Christine, for this addition. I appreciate the prayers sourced from around the world and from different parts of the church. Coming together in prayer is a small sign of hope that I pray will grow and flourish. All the best as you prepare to lead worship.

  2. God bless you for this post, April – and for your good timing! Praise & prayer seem to be the theme God is leading members of our Christian Poets & Writers group to write about today! I’ll highlight your post on the Christian Poets & Writers blog

    A few days ago, I posted “Praying for Christians Everywhere,” which I hope is a blessing too.

    1. Thank you for adding the link to your prayer, Mary. Many of your phrases apply also to this context of praying for those who have been forced to become refugees:

      May you be strengthened
      with all power
      according to God’s glorious might.

      May you endure
      with patience and joy….

  3. Thank you for this post, April. Saturday I was struggling to find words to express my feelings about the crisis with refugees, and these prayers certainly speak to my soul. Our church has sponsored 6 families in the last 10 years and is not in a place to have the emotional energy to invite a new family. We are still busy with those who have just come. That is sad for me, but I need to respect that. The words of the prayers were of comfort.

    1. I share your struggle, Pat, and am glad that these prayers speak to you as well. I also appreciate the consistent work that your church has been doing over the years. While the Syrian refugee crisis is very much in the news now, there are refugees from many other countries as well, and the need has been on-going for years. I can well understand that your church’s energies are already fully engaged. My congregation has also been involved with refugee sponsorship in the past, and I think/hope/pray that we are ready to re-engage at this time.

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