In an ancient time, our spiritual forebears were conquered and exiled. And the prophet Jeremiah wrote them a letter about how to deal with their calamities. In the various spirits with which those banished people listened to his letter read out, we open ourselves to you in prayer, O God.
Jeremiah, speaking for you, told the banished people to settle, to build lives and families, to endure and even prosper. “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:5-7, NIV)
Can we take strength from Jeremiah’s letter to welcome the agreement this week of a definitive cease-fire between the Colombian government and the FARC rebels? Can we move beyond our fear that any agreement after such a long time of conflict must be uncertain? God, we pray for the strength to do that. We pray for long memories to remind us that the glamour of war never lasts and leaves too many casualties by the side of its road.
We pray for vision that trusts your plans for each of us and for all your children, plans of hope and a future. Can we take hope from Jeremiah’s letter to celebrate the opening of a bridge across the Bosphorus Strait in Turkey? Representatives from countries that have struggled long and hard through generations to achieve independence and respect, countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Bahrain, Northern Cyprus, Serbia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, all lent their prestige to the opening of the bridge. We pray for blessings of peace and mutual understanding. We pray that ancient wrongs that face each other from one end of the bridge to the other may be overcome, if not forgiven. We pray that those who have not experienced those particular wrongs may learn to understand how deeply felt and remembered they are.
We pray with Jeremiah and Jeremiah’s audience for the peace of Jarabulus, Syria and the conflict areas along the border between Syria and Turkey. There are reports of dozens of civilians killed, more wounded, and thousands in flight from their homes and their villages. We pray, Lord, for the wisdom that you impart. Teach us to pray for peace and prosperity for all.
As the funeral bells complete their tolling in parts of Italy stricken by earthquake, we pray for courage and restoration of community. For the loss of life in Amatrice, Accumoli, and Pescara del Tronto, we mourn. For the individuals and their communities from the countries of Italy, Romania, the United Kingdom, the United States, Albania, El Salvador, Canada, Spain, and Macedonia already named among the casualties, we mourn. For the world and its loss of cultural heritage, we mourn. It is an awesome natural world in which we live, and we pray for that wisdom from on high that would make it safe.
We are learning about a planet that we are told is in a “habitable zone” around the star closest to our sun. Our minds do not really work with distances of light years; the 4+ light years between our sun and the closest star amount to 25 trillion miles. Yet the ingenuity of scientists and technicians is such that we know that somehow your plans for us include a richer understanding of our own planet and of our own universe. We pray for an endless residence in a house of wonder at this glorious creation in which we live out our days.
Dear loving God, who so well understands that we scarcely know our own plans for ourselves and who yet shares a loving purpose and destiny with us, hear our prayers. Amen.