After Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and Dallas Police… How to Pray in Church Sunday?
It’s getting way past old: Senseless murder. Institutionalized bias and racism. Sheer evil in action. Too-easy-to-access AR-15s used to kill in times of peace.
There’s more to say than any single blog post could. I simply want to suggest here a resource for worship service planning for this Sunday. After looking through a host of lament prayers, both ancient and modern, I’ve come to Psalm 74.
It doesn’t take much imagination to update its striking imagery of “men wielding axes” and ones who “smashed all the carved paneling with their axes and hatchets” to the context of this last week in the United States. Verse 9 offers the poignant observation, “None of us knows how long this will be.”
Here’s Psalm 74 in its entirety, which our congregation will use as our Call to Worship on Sunday, mindful of and mourning for this week’s tragic loss of life.
O God, why have you rejected us forever?
Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture?
2 Remember the nation you purchased long ago,
the people of your inheritance, whom you redeemed—
Mount Zion, where you dwelt.
3 Turn your steps toward these everlasting ruins,
all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary.
4 Your foes roared in the place where you met with us;
they set up their standards as signs.
5 They behaved like men wielding axes
to cut through a thicket of trees.
6 They smashed all the carved paneling
with their axes and hatchets.
7 They burned your sanctuary to the ground;
they defiled the dwelling place of your Name.
8 They said in their hearts, “We will crush them completely!”
They burned every place where God was worshiped in the land.
9 We are given no signs from God;
no prophets are left,
and none of us knows how long this will be.
10 How long will the enemy mock you, God?
Will the foe revile your name forever?
11 Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?
Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!
12 But God is my King from long ago;
he brings salvation on the earth.
13 It was you who split open the sea by your power;
you broke the heads of the monster in the waters.
14 It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan
and gave it as food to the creatures of the desert.
15 It was you who opened up springs and streams;
you dried up the ever-flowing rivers.
16 The day is yours, and yours also the night;
you established the sun and moon.
17 It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth;
you made both summer and winter.
18 Remember how the enemy has mocked you, Lord,
how foolish people have reviled your name.
19 Do not hand over the life of your dove to wild beasts;
do not forget the lives of your afflicted people forever.
20 Have regard for your covenant,
because haunts of violence fill the dark places of the land.
21 Do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace;
may the poor and needy praise your name.
22 Rise up, O God, and defend your cause;
remember how fools mock you all day long.
23 Do not ignore the clamor of your adversaries,
the uproar of your enemies, which rises continually.