*Originally written for worship at Fourth Presbyterian Church on January 25, 2015.
Gracious and Loving God,
We give you thanks for this day, for our lives, and for one another. We give you thanks for this very moment carved out from our daily existence for us to gather together, to share space and heart, to worship you, and to find warmth for our bodies and our souls within these walls. We give you thanks too for the winter season that unfolds outside, for its part in the ever-unfolding story of your creation, and for the invitation it offers us to rest, to quiet ourselves, and to patiently prepare for the new thing that is coming into being.
Indeed in this season where biting cold, gray days and enduring ice make us restless for sunlight and summer, we ask that you would help us to pause. Help us to root ourselves in this moment and all that uniquely defines it. Fill us with patience and presence to fully embrace the life that meets us right here and help us to remember that every moment, even the ones we are hasty to overcome, is indeed a gift and an opportunity to encounter your grace. Beckon us, in this winter season, to be still and know that you are God.
Even as we ask for patience and presence, O God, we know too that the cold and dark of this time of year often draw us into ourselves, into our homes, into the comfort of our own individual lives. Against this call to isolation and hibernation, we ask that you stir us up and turn our hearts outside of ourselves and our own havens. In this spirit, we pray for those beyond our doors.
We pray for those whose lives unfold on the streets we walk daily with a quick step and a head bent against the wind. We pray for those who have nowhere to go against the cold, those who fear for their health and their safety and their future. We ask that they too may find some sense of the comfort we so often take for granted. Help us to know when and how we may be the source of that comfort.
We pray for our whole city—for its citizens and its leaders—help us to remember that we are all bound up together—so that we might work in unison for a brighter and warmer tomorrow for all who call this place home. We pray for our nation and for our world, that icy tensions, prejudices, injustices, and violence might give way to mutual connection, respect, and community. We pray for all who are suffering under the weight of neglect, scarcity, and oppression—and we lift up especially those whose stories never reach our ears. We know, God, that you hear them and hold them close.
We lift up, also, all those in our very midst who are struggling. We pray especially for those who are suffering a loss, those who are lonely, those who are depressed or anxious, and those who face uncertainty. We pray too for those struggling with health issues, those wrestling with financial problems, and those facing strife with friends or family.
We know and trust, O God, that you are always with us. In cold and in warmth, in darkness and in light, in every season and every moment of our lives—you hold us all in your loving embrace and never let us go.
Trusting indeed that you are always there, we pray to you now as your son taught us, saying together, Our Father…