Great God Almighty, We Are Free at Last!

 Martin Luther King, 1964 / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
 
God grant that right here in America and all over the world,
    we will choose the high way:
a way in which men will live together as brothers.
A way in which the nations of the world will beat their swords into plowshares,
    and their spears into pruning hooks.
A way in which every man will respect 
    the dignity and worth of all human personality.
A way in which every nation will allow justice to flow down like waters,
    and righteousness like a mighty stream.
A way in which men will do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.
A way in which men will be able to stand up, 
    and in the midst of oppression, in the midst of darkness and agony,
    they will be able to stand there and love their enemies,
        bless those persons that curse them,
        pray for those individuals that despitefully use them.
And this is the way that will bring us once more into that society
    which we think of as the brotherhood of man.
This will be that day when white people, colored people,
    whether they are brown or whether they are yellow  or whether they are black,
    will join together and stretch out with their arms and be able to cry out:
“Free at last! Free at last! Great God Almighty, we are free at last!”
 
Martin Luther King, Jr. 1929 -1968, American pastor and civil rights activist
 
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And a highway will be there;
    it will be called the Way of Holiness;
    it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it;
    wicked fools will not go about on it.
No lion will be there,
    nor any ravenous beast;
    they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,
    and those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
    everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
    and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

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prayer for our leaders

Image by Myriams-Fotos from Pixabay   
 
Lord God, in our prayers for our country
we remember especially the men and women 
who powerfully influence the life of society:
    those who fashion our politics,
    those who frame and administer our laws,
    those who mold public opinion through various forms of media,
    those who write what many read.
May all such recognize their responsibility to you and to the nation, 
    that people may be influenced for what is good, not evil;
    for what is true, not false;
for the glory of your name,
 
Frank Colquhoun,1909-1997, evangelical priest and author, Church of England
 
______________________
 
 
Behold, a king will reign in righteousness,
    and princes will rule in justice.
Each will be like a hiding place from the wind,
    a shelter from the storm,
  like streams of water in a dry place,
    like the shade of a great rock in a weary land.
Then the eyes of those who see will not be closed,
    and the ears of those who hear will give attention.
The heart of the hasty will understand and know,
    and the tongue of the stammerers will hasten to speak distinctly.
The fool will no more be called noble,
    nor the scoundrel said to be honorable.
For the fool speaks folly,
    and his heart is busy with iniquity,
  to practice ungodliness,
    to utter error concerning the Lord,
  to leave the craving of the hungry unsatisfied,
    and to deprive the thirsty of drink.
As for the scoundrel—his devices are evil;
    he plans wicked schemes
  to ruin the poor with lying words,
    even when the plea of the needy is right.
But he who is noble plans noble things,
    and on noble things he stands.

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Lord, we lament the state of our nation

 image by Billy Hathorn, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
 
Lord, we lament the state of our nation.

Lord, we lament the divisions between us as people in our nation that we cannot seem to resolve.

Lord, we lament the pain, confusion, hatred, and violence that seems to reign in our personal and national life.

Lord, we lament the lack of leadership in our government that has in many ways led to the state of affairs in which we now find ourselves.

Lord, we lament the darkness in our own hearts that contributes to this situation.

Lord, we pray for those who perpetrated the attacks on the Capitol, and the broader attacks on our democracy, to be brought to justice and ultimately to repentance.

Lord, we pray for truth to reign in our national conversations and our communities, as well as in our church.

Lord we pray for President Trump, during the final days of his administration, that he will fulfill his duties responsibly.

Lord, we pray for President-elect Biden, that he will have wisdom as he prepares to assume office on January 20.

Lord, we pray for all our elected officials in the Senate and House of Representatives to be led by Your grace and wisdom, whether they want to be or not.

Lord, we pray for protection of our nation from any adversaries who would seek to harm us during this perilous transitional period.

Lord, we remember that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12), so we pray that You would protect us from all spiritual evil that seeks to bring devastation upon us.

Lord, we pray for healing of relationships between Americans who are deeply divided by partisanship, that they will seek to resolve their differences peacefully and cooperate where possible for the common good.

Lord, we pray for protection of those in other countries suffering persecution, who have seen the United States as a model of democracy, who may now be endangered as dictators are emboldened to commit further abuses.

Lord, we pray for all who follow the Prince of Peace, that we will humble ourselves before God and allow the light of Christ to shine through us into our dark and broken world.

And Lord, we pray for our own church that we might stand in Your truth, be filled with Your grace, live as one through Christ, and might boldly walk forward as witnesses to You and Your Kingdom, individually and corporately.

All this we pray through Jesus Christ, who with You and the Holy Spirit, are one God, both now and forever. Amen.
 
Matt Erickson, pastor serving in Milwaukee, WI, blogging at Renovate
 
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If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
 
 

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watchful for your coming

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash  
 
Righteous one,
to you alone
we lift our souls;
in you alone
we place our trust;
for you alone
we wait all day long.
For you are the God
of our salvation,
abounding in mercy
and steadfast love.
Help us remain alert and watchful
for the coming of your promised one—
the one who comes with power and glory,
the one drawing near
to bring our salvation. 
Amen.
 
Adapted from The Abingdon Worship Annual 2009 © 2008 Abingdon Press
 
______________________
 
 
Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

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seasons of your presence

Photo by Derek Thomson on Unsplash  
O my God,
let me never forget that seasons of consolation are refreshments here, 
    and nothing more; not our abiding state. 
They will not remain with us except in heaven. 
Here they are only intended to prepare us for doing and suffering. 
I pray Thee, O my God, to give them to me from time to time. 
Shed over me the sweetness of Thy Presence, lest I faint by the way; 
    lest I go about my daily work in a dry spirit, 
    or am tempted to take pleasure in it for its own sake, and not for Thee. 
Give me Thy Divine consolations from time to time; 
    but let me not rest in them. 
Let me use them for the purpose for which Thou givest them. 
Let me not think it grievous, let me not be downcast, if they go. 
Let them carry me forward to the thought and the desire of heaven.
 
John Henry Newman, 1801-1890, English Catholic priest, theologian & poet
 
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He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
    and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.
 

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representing our compassionate Savior

Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane / Robert Walter Weir / CC0

 

Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief,
we pray for our brothers and sisters who mourn.
 
We pray for each one who feels the keen grief that death can bring,
    You have told us that death is not the end of life,
    that beyond the grave is the resurrection,
    yet you wept at the side of a grave,
    you understand our grief.
    Strengthen those who mourn.
 
We pray for our brothers and sisters
    who are shut off from the rest of society
    by their color or their accent.
    If we are part of their trouble,
    help us to correct what lies in our power to correct.
 
We pray for each one who is in pain
    because of sickness or injury.
    You knew pain so deep and intense
    that you thought the heavenly Father had forgotten you.
    Be the light for those who are in the valley of the shadows.
 
Compassionate Savior,
    you have called us to represent you
    in compassion with your brothers and sisters who mourn.
    You have done your part;
    help us to do ours.
 
Andrew W Blackwood Jr, 1882-1966, Presbyterian pastor and professor
 
_____________________________
 
 
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

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a prayer for wisdom

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash  

O Lord our God, reveal to us your heart and character so that we in turn will yield our hearts, minds and wills to obey your commands.  It is in listening and hearing from you that we can set our hearts to obey your commands and follow your instructions.
 
We recognize that our craving for wisdom, deliverance, and freedom can only be fulfilled in you, so grant us the patience to listen to your wisdom and the courage to apply our minds to your knowledge.  Our cry in this hour is “that we may know you.”  We understand that to “know you” is a lifelong process.  A lifelong process of seeking after you and a lifelong process of searching for the good in life.  It is only by so doing that we can come to know you, the eternal One, the supplier of wisdom, insight and knowledge.
 
Your help is readily available and granted upon request to those who seek after you.  Grant us the grace of honesty because you are a shield to those who live honestly.  You are our lifeguard and protection from those who act wickedly toward us.  Your light, O God, gives us a clear path to follow and when we walk in that path of life our personhood is solidified, our joy is complete, we survive our trials, and our wicked enemies are destroyed before our eyes.  These great acts we will not forget.
 
Dr. John J. Finn, Pastor in Tennessee
 
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Now then, my children, listen to me;
    blessed are those who keep my ways.
Listen to my instruction and be wise;
    do not disregard it.
Blessed are those who listen to me,
    watching daily at my doors,
    waiting at my doorway.
For those who find me find life
    and receive favor from the Lord.
But those who fail to find me harm themselves;
    all who hate me love death.
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Pondering the small ways

plumb bob by Wolfgang Sauber / CC BY-SA 3.0
 
We ponder at your greatness.
 
We bless you in your wonders of creation.
 
We magnify you for your miracles of deliverance.
 
We relish the news of your gift of
    newness given us in Jesus of Nazareth.
 
We make our doxology as large as we can,
    in order to match your
    massive presence in the world.
 
But then, in slow times and in lesser venues,
    we know you to be the God of small things;
        one widow and one orphan,
        one touch of healing,
        one lunch turned to much food,
        one small temple for a small people in a small city,
        one small scroll to power the small city.
 
On good days we are among those,
    who do not occupy ourselves
        with things too great and too marvelous.
 
It is enough that short of glory and magnificence,
    you hang in to make small places your venue for governance.
We are grateful for your “tidbits”
         that bespeak life among us.
 
Walter Brueggemann, 1933 -,  American Protestant Old Testament theologian
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Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.

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