Over the last three months, I’ve been trying to answer one question often–what does it mean to be the Church where I live, through this season? Of course I have ideas, but I don’t have the answer. And so I wonder: how can I lead my family and those I influence, if I don’t even know myself? I can only seek the answer and choose to model prayer, asking God to show us what it means to be His church in this season. My prayer has become a cry. This is my lament for the American Church.
Teach us to pray, Lord Jesus.
Like Jesus’ disciples were taught, I was also guided through the Lord’s Prayer. However, rote word-for-word prayers were never my priority, but rather to use the six petitions as a framework (remembered by the hexagon shape from Mike Breen’s Building a Discipleship Culture).
So, as I began to write out a lament for my country a couple weeks back, my prayer for the American Church began to take form in the elements of Character, Kingdom, Provision, Forgiveness, Guidance and Protection.
Lament for the American Church
(Based off the six petitions of the Lord’s Prayer: Character, Kingdom, Provision, Forgiveness, Protection and Guidance)
Jesus, you are God. You are our good and holy Father, above my house; above this city, country and world. You are above riots; above pandemics.
You are big enough; loving enough.
We want your government to take root in our fragile nation. Let it break through the surface, undoing what is not of you, transforming above our fallen land. Let our trunk grow intertwined with your righteousness, our branches carrying the fruit of justice. Let our covering leaves bring comfort and healing to this nation. Through the parched earth, we reach your life-source. (Hosea 14; Psalm 1; Revelations 22:2). We thirst for your version of justice so that we can live justly. We are longing to be satisfied by your righteousness. (Matthew 5:6).
Let our justice be driven not by what we want for ourselves, but by what is a reflection of your character. For you alone are good and define righteousness. (Mark 10:18). Help us to join you walking in humility, loving mercy and living justly. (Micah 6:8).
Let your kingdom not be called dead! But let our beliefs be backed by action (James). Give us ideas on how to feed the hungry and thirsty. Help us to see how to care for the sick, even in this pandemic. Empower your Church to clothe the poor and welcome the foreigner. (Matthew 25:34-40). For your kingdom to expand, empower us to be hospitable to strangers, despite the risks. (Hebrews 13:2). Help us to be family to the lonely, the elderly and orphaned.
Empower us to have wisdom on how to share this hope, the gospel. This good news of grace is what builds your kingdom! We want to make the most of the opportunity that is here now! (Ephesians 5:16). Your kingdom is built upon reconciliation! Between God and man, and God and people (even those of all races, cultured and ethnicities). With you, we are equal and we are one .let us be bold in this proclamation of truth! Let us not be ashamed of this gospel of reconciliation!
Sometimes, growing your kingdom means going beyond governmental mandates and challenging the status quo. Lead us and give us the courage to do this when you call us. (Acts 4:19-20).
But help us to do this with extreme caution; we ask you to check our motivation. For you also ask us to submit to authority–often authority that isn’t always just and is never perfect. We choose to trust you, even as you have given authority to people we don’t like. We pray for them now. (1 Timothy. 2:1–2). If we cannot see the greater reason to obey or the long story you’re weaving throughout history, empower us to overcome our desires to let obedience become as our default. (Romans 13).
When we must sacrifice some of our personal freedoms, give us the humility to be able to do so. And in the meantime, please radically show yourself to our leaders as you did with the ruler of Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar and King Darius the Mede. Help us to remember that you will be the ultimate judge in the end, and your judgement is more just and complete than our own will ever be. (Psalm 75:7).
Thank you that your Church, your kingdom, will grow–despite how we are allowed or not allowed to meet. I pray that we will become more concerned with humility, becoming like water that trickles through cracks, than we become concerned about being a fortress. You are our fortress and we are but travelers.
To love you, we offer our lives to you. And not just part of it, but all areas. Our actions, our comfortable beliefs, our pride, our safely-tucked away hurt places…These are our living sacrifice. (Romans 12.1-2).
Help us to die to ourselves, even if it means wearing masks or not seeing people we love to protect them. On the flip side, let us also be willing to put ourselves at risk to care for others, who are sick, in need or need a message of hope.
May your will be done in us and through us here on earth, reflecting heaven in this realm.
We want more than pleasure to fill our bellies. There are real needs swallowing your people. For your people aren’t just figuratively hungry, thirsty, homeless and sick–many are actually those things. You’ve provided before, provide again! You are our source!
Then there are also those who are hated. Those who are persecuted. Will you intervene? If you want your Church, your body to move forward as a subversive force, you must fill us! Meet our needs, not so that we can feel safe and secure, but so we can introduce others in need to you.
We cannot do this without your Spirit. Fill us, empower us with your mighty life-giving and changing power (1 Corinthians ). Fill us with your word and truth.
Let your people rise-up. Help us to hear your prophets and follow your apostles. Let us heed your teachers and be cared for by your shepherds. Give your Church ambassadors of your name and your character, to lead those who’ve never met you back to their creator. We plead, equip us for we do not feel equipped! (Ephesians 4).
Provide for us if you want us to be your kingdom force on this planet. We need you daily and humbly ask.
Oh, we need a right relationship with you! We allow you to test and examine us, for although you are just in our sin, you have also made us your own through your own payment to satisfy the law of justice. We are not forever abandoned and you hear us as we cry. (Lamentations 3:31-59).
We are unclean. (Matthew 15:18-19). Our ignorance and arrogance have kept us from becoming like you in how we treat others. Ignorance and arrogance have kept us from donning your nature.
So today, now, we confess our sins of discrimination and favoritism. We have judged and not loved others like we love ourselves. (James 2).
We are in need; we depend on you. We come back to you, to act with love and justice! (Hosea 12:6).
We confess, we’ve done this wrong.
We confess, so often we don’t see our brother or sister. We see ourselves.
We confess, we don’t love with your unconditional love.
Forgive us not for privilege you gave us, but for not using it to love like you do. For it was in your humility that you entered into our world and the human experience. Too often we do not follow your example! (Philippians 2).
We are undone. Forgive us, for we didn’t know what we didn’t know. Or maybe sometimes we did and yet you are still our atonement.
Through forgiveness, we follow your example as peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). Just as you forgive us, empower us to forgive. If there is hurt that needs to be addressed, Spirit, guide us towards healing. We are making it our top priority to live in peace in our relationships. (Hebrews 12:14).
Let us walk humbly with you. Let us walk humbly with others, seeing them better as ourselves, even if we don’t agree with them! Help us to forgive them for how they approach the law, racism, safety measures, etc… in a way we find wrong or are hurt by. Let us give them the same grace you show us, for they do not know what they do (or if they do, let the vengeance be yours!)
I release the debt I have against those who have hurt me and/or who I am divided against. You now hold that debt I’ve had against them. Do with it what your righteousness judgement sees as best.
Let us not advocate with bitterness, but marked by blamelessness, gentleness. (Philippians 2:3; 15; 4:5). That seems impossible sometimes, to live in continual unity, forgiveness and grace, but I believe you want to do the impossible in us! (Matthew 17:20).
Let us live like travelers. Give us such a vision for heaven that we do not fear death. Help us to be content living like flowers, here today and gone tomorrow, living now to the fullest through you, Jesus.
Jesus, you came to bring us life, not the death, destruction, and thievery of our spiritual enemy. (John 10:10). We ask you for that life! We ask that you protect us and keep us wary of spiritual schemes of evil. Thank you that no matter what we cannot be separated from you. (Romans 8).
But we do ask for your protection from danger and sickness, like you promised those you sent out. (Mark 16).
We ask for your deliverance from evil! While the American world breaks out in chaos, a spiritual battle is being fought. Give us victory over spiritual authorities. Rescue us!
Through your cross, hostility has been ended and equality has been restored. May this truth shake the spiritual realms and come forth on earth, starting with us! (Ephesians 2:16-18).
We speak out that division has no cozy home here in your Church! Empower us to see that we belong together, whatever that looks like right now! Help our eyes not fixate on negatives, being a divided house. Deliver us and remind your people that we are not enemies, in the world, our nation, our communities and homes!
If Satan has asked to sift us like wheat, do not let him steal our souls. Put an end to his game. Let this fire recreate us into a pure organism, your Body be born of this war for our hearts.
Let’s shake the realm of Satan by overcoming evil with good. (Romans 12:21).
Show us what I mean to be the church in this season. How do we not forsake meeting together when we can’t meet together (legally) or shouldn’t (because it will hurt others)? Give us discernment. We, your Church, have been shaken; remake us. Give us the grace to allow you to change us instead of trying to race back to “normal”.
But also, let us count costs like the wise. And if we are willing to follow you, no matter the cost, where will you lead us? Help us to see what you are doing around us so we can join you and have confidence! You always lead us into suffering, in broken spaces, so you can be there and bring wholeness. Let your will be done, not our own.
Help us to rethink what it means to be the Church, what defines us at the Church. And I pray that this seeking and questioning will start within us, that we won’t wait to be led by any church. God, because you are generous, give us wisdom. We choose to believe what seems to be you. (James 1:3)
Help us to put people first, empathizing with them. Yes, so often we want to simply join in celebration. This is good. But when your people are celebrating what others are mourning, give us guidance in our response. Let us see what season it is. (Ecclesiastes).
For the millions who are now grieving the loss of loved ones, empower us to walk with them and give them your comfort. (Matthew 5:4). Open our ears to listen to the voices of the hurting. Give us endurance to empathize with them in their grief. (Romans 12:15).
For the millions who are lamenting the lives of people of color that have been stolen, let us join them. For you call us to lament injustice.
For the millions who are afraid and unsure, having lost their income in this season, help us to encourage them, support them.
Empower us to see how to strengthen and encourage others. Cultivate within us an eagerness for this. (Romans 14:19)
Even if everyone else takes the common path, the way the world thinks, we are different. We have access to your thoughts; renew our minds! Reveal to us your mind about the world being ripped apart around us. We are desperate for your insight. We want to align with your will, which you say is good. (Romans 12:1-2). Sometimes we do not believe you will intervene to guide us forward; help our unbelief.
Overall, let us live lives worth imitating as we imitate you, Jesus.
“For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
(Matthew 6:13 NKJV)