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Prayer for the week

09 November 2012

Jo Spreadbury on a prayer for those suffering the anguish of conflict


God of peace,
whose Son Jesus Christ
 proclaimed the kingdom
and restored the broken to
 wholeness of life:
look with compassion on the
 anguish of the world
and by your healing power
make whole both people
 and nations;
through our Lord and Saviour
 Jesus Christ.

Common Worship
post-communion for the
3rd Sunday before Advent

IN THE Common Worship, provision of post com­munions, some classic prayers of the Christian tradition have been drawn on (as we have seen in my previous two con­tributions to this column), together with more recent material (as we shall see next week). In addition, prayers have also been included from other Anglican provinces, reflecting the fact that our spiritual inheritance is continents wide, as well as centuries deep.

This prayer has come, via the ASB, from the province of Southern Af­rica. As it is always linked to Remem­brance Sunday, it is meaningful that such a prayer comes out of the experience of the wounds of the inhumanity of apartheid, and is given to us in the context of the wounds of war.

Strikingly, of all the post-communion prayers in Common Worship, this is the only one that does not pray for anything for our­selves. One or two other post-communions ask God for something in relation to "your people" or "your Church", but this prayer is entirely objective and altruistic, as it were: there is no "we" or "us" in the petition for God's help.

We are, of course, among those people who need to be made whole; we are ourselves the broken who long for restoration; but, at Remem­brancetide above all, it seems ap­propriate that our prayers and our communion have a wider reference. We pray for God's compassion for those who endure the anguish of conflict past and present; for those who still bear the scars, visibly or inwardly.

In the Bible, compassion is an extreme response, something felt "in the guts". The Gospel-writers de­scribe Jesus as "snorting with anger" at the power of evil to cause disorder, disease, and death (Mark 1.41; similarly, John 11.33, 38). The powerful image in Greek is of flared nostrils, like those of a wild horse, although our translations tame this to "moved with pity" or "deeply dis­turbed".

Perhaps we should seek to react more strongly to the evils of violence and hatred. Perhaps we should snort more with indignation at the waste of lives, and communities deprived of wholeness by war.

Although this prayer is worded objectively, and seems not directly to be about us - God could make peace happen, despite us - we are invited to be instrumental in its fulfilment. Jesus sent his disciples out with his message and his power; and, as we go from communion, it is we who take his healing presence and his light into the world.

The image that comes to mind for me, as people go out from holy communion, is that of the lights streaming out in the darkness across the hillside in a small Greek village, where I was staying one year at the time of the Orthodox celebration of Easter.

Everyone had their own candle, lit from the Paschal candle, to carry out of church, and the pin­points of light radiated and spread across the valley, to the furthest places I could see, as people made their way home.

The challenge of peace is huge: only the reality of God breaking into our world can make peace a reality. But God can use our faint prayers and frail hopes. And, as we pray for peace, God may choose to use us, even us, to be channels of that peace.

The Revd Dr Jo Spreadbury is Vicar of Abbots Langley, in the diocese of St Albans.

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