Prayers of Hope and Healing: Resources for troubled times and special circumstances

When words fail us, whether in times of joy or sorrow, it is often the words penned by another that help us give voice to our soul’s prayer. Maybe the written prayer expresses our thoughts so profoundly we use the same text, or maybe it helps free our own tongue to form a new prayer. But where do we find those prayers? There are many great prayer books, but another readily accessible source is the Internet. Many good sites provide prayers and other worship resources free for use in congregational worship. Most of the following prayers were gleaned from a few of those sites and may be used in congregational worship without further permission.

At a Child’s Funeral

Father, you know our hearts and share our sorrows.
We are hurt by our parting from ____, whom we loved:
when we are angry at the loss we have sustained,
when we long for words of comfort,
yet find them hard to hear,
turn our grief to more patient faith,
our affliction to firmer hope
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

—from Common Worship: Pastoral Services, Church House Publishing,

© 2000, The Archbishops’ Council. Used by permission.

God of compassion, you make nothing in vain
and love all you have created;
we commend to you ____ and ____ ’s child ____ ,
for whom they poured out such great love,
for whom they cherished so many hopes and dreams.
We had longed to welcome [him/her] among us;
grant us the assurance that [he/she] is now encircled
in your arms of love
and shares the resurrection life of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

—from Common Worship: Pastoral Services, Church House Publishing,

© 2000, The Archbishops’ Council. Used by permission.

For Those Suffering from Dementia

and Their Caretakers

Lord, in weakness or in strength
we bear your image.
We pray for those we love
who now live in a land of shadows,
where the light of memory is dimmed,
where the familiar lies unknown,
where the beloved become as strangers.
Hold them in your everlasting arms,
and grant to those who care
strength to serve,
patience to persevere,
love to last,
and peace that passes human understanding.<> Hold us in your everlasting arms,
today and for all eternity;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

—from Common Worship: Pastoral Services, Church House Publishing,

© 2000, The Archbishops’ Council. Used by permission.

Note: See also Songs for the Season, “When Eyes That We Once Knew as Keen,” page 28.

For a World Confronted by AIDS

Loving God,
as we hold before you a world confronted by AIDS,
we pray in hope for your will to prevail:
Where lives are short,
may they yet be full.
When a cure is far off,
may there yet be healing.
Where bodies are weak,
may spirits yet be strong.
When silence is destructive,
may there yet be courage to speak out.
Where judgments are hasty,
may minds yet be open.
When reality is overwhelming,
may there yet be response.
Where faith is tested,
may we yet find you there.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.

—Simeon Mitchell, Christian Aid. Copyright Christian Aid (2003).
Used by permission.

For a Troubled Marriage

God, whose love is like strong eagle’s wings
bearing us up in times of hurt and anger:
carry those whose marriages are falling and failing.
Break the cycle of blame, retaliation, and all words that wound.
Help each to come to the inner spring of hope.
Let each experience your strength and protection
so that both discover the courage
to be vulnerable instead of vicious.
In that vulnerable place make hearts open
to your purpose and love in this troubled time.
Guide them to do justice,
to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with you,
even if it means keeping distance from each other
until the dust settles and the storm gives way to the light,
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

—from The Book of Common Prayer

For the Unemployed

Heavenly Father, we remember before you those who suffer want and anxiety from lack of work. Guide the people of this land so to use our public and private wealth that all may find suitable and fulfilling employment, and receive just payment for their labor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

—from The Christian Resource Institute.

from The Book of Common Prayer.

When Crisis Threatens

Caring God,
we acknowledge before you our fears;
we acknowledge before you our anxieties;
we acknowledge before you our doubts.
Help us to recognize in the depths of our being that we are not alone,
but that you are truly present in this painful hour.
We pray that you might ease our burdens
by the assurance of your companionship,
by the knowledge of your abiding love,
and by the hope we share in Jesus Christ,
in whose name we pray. Amen.

—from Book of Worship: United Church of Christ,
© 1986 Worship and Education Ministry Team, Local Church Ministries,
United Church of Christ, Cleveland, Ohio. Used by permission.

Following a Natural Disaster

God of Creation,
you set our lives on a planet
where both beauty and danger are found.
Hear our prayers for those who have been overcome
by disastrous [famine/flood/earthquake/fire] in [place].
Help heal the pain of those who are injured.
Strengthen with your presence
all who are numb with fear and distress.
Guide those who anxiously search or wait. Amen.

—from Service Book for the Use of Ministers by the United Church of Canada,

United Church Publishing House, 1969. Used by permission.

For the Criminal Justice System

God, we pray for all the people in the criminal justice system.
For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment,
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Forgive our self-righteousness

when we judge others and ignore our own sins.

Do not speak evil against one another. . . .

There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?

[James 4:11-12]

We pray for all who are in prisons and jails.
I was in prison and you visited me. [Matt. 25:36]
We pray for all victims, for families,
for all who are hurt by crimes.
If one member suffers, all suffer together with it;

if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it

. [1 Cor. 12:26]
We confess that we are a part of a system and a society
that reflects sexism, racism, poverty, injustice.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!
For you . . . have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.

[Matt. 23:23]
Help us to look at our priorities as we build more prisons and jails instead of rebuilding lives and communities.

The Lord . . . executes justice for the oppressed. . . .
The Lord sets the prisoners free.

[Ps. 146: 5, 7]
O Lord, we pray for strength in our commitment
and courage in our service.

And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice,
and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

[Micah 6:8]


—Adapted from Task Force on Criminal Justice, Southern California Synodical Association

(United Presbyterian Church, 1979). Used by permission.

God of the past, present, and future, we thank you for the gift of life and the joy of being in community with one another.

We grieve the losses suffered by others daily because of violence and crime, especially the disproportionately large losses suffered by people of color. We pray for victims and offenders of crimes and for the communities that bear the scars of crimes. Show us how to usher in your new community of justice and peace, O God. Take away our fear and fill us instead with the confidence of your Spirit’s presence. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

—from Sharon K. Youngs, Close Encounters of the Justice System Kind

(Louisville: Presbyterian Church USA, 1997), p. 31. Used by permission.

For Guidance

O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light rises up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you would have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in your light we may see light, and in your straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

—from Christian Resource Institute.

For the Unity of the Church Amid Conflicts

O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

—from Christian Resource Institute.

At the Dedication of a Church

For the worship of God
in prayer and praise,
for the preaching
of the Word,
for the celebration
of the holy sacraments,

We dedicate this building.

For the comfort
of those who mourn,
for the help of those
who are perplexed,
for the guidance of those
who seek strength,

We dedicate this building.

For the support
and nurture of families,
for the guidance
of children,
for the calling of youth
to a life of service,

We dedicate this building.

For guarding against evil,

for fostering faithfulness,

for promoting peace and justice in all the earth,

We dedicate this building.

For the opening of minds to your truth,

for the care of the needy,

for the giving of hope and courage,

We dedicate this building.

For the unity
of all believers in Christ,
for the carrying of the gospel into all the world,
for the furtherance
of the unity of all people,

We dedicate this building.

For the consecration

of life and service,

in grateful remembrance of those who have gone before us,

and in gratitude for our life together in this church,

We dedicate this building to the glory of God, to the honor of Jesus Christ, and to the praise

of the Holy Spirit.

Thanks be to God!

—adapted from A Service for the Dedication of a Church Building Free of Debt

© 1964, 1965 Board of Publication of the Methodist Church, Inc. Renewed

© 1971, 1972 by Abingdon Press; © 1984 Abingdon Press;

© 1992 United Methodist Publishing House renewed

© 1992 United Methodist Publishing House. Adapted by permission.

For a Church Anniversary

Lord God, heavenly Father,

for calling us to faith through your Word and bringing us together in the body of Christ;

for awakening us to the urgency of your mission;

for the privilege of taking your Word into all the world;

We give you humble thanks and praise.

This day, O Lord, we remember the past:

We remember the missionary vision of those who first came to ___________;

We remember their determination to show others how beautiful it is to live with Jesus;

We remember their willingness to say, “Here am I! Send me!”

Give us, we pray, that same vision and determination.

This day, O Lord, we reflect on the task:

we reflect on being equipped with the power of your Word;

we reflect on being chosen as your ambassadors;

we reflect on being entrusted with the message of reconciliation.

Cause our reflection to lead us to action.

This day, O Lord, we look forward to rejoicing that will last;

to the rejoicing that will be ours in heaven;

to the rejoicing others will experience through our missionary efforts;

to the rejoicing that takes place in heaven when one sinner repents.

May that future joy be ours now and always. Amen.

— Used by permission.

At the Close of a Church

Heavenly Father, we are gathered here to give thanks for the long years you have permitted us to use this building in your service. We thank you for watching with loving care over our children, our people, our teachers, and the pastors who have served you here throughout the years. Forgive us for the sins and errors we have committed along the way. Help us to remember those who have gone before us to the home above, and give us the grace and determination to follow in their faithful steps until we complete the journey you have set before us. And finally, O Lord, be our strong refuge all the day long, until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then, in your mercy grant us a safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

—from Christian Worship: Occasional Services,

© 2004, Northwestern Publishing House Used by permission.

At a Farewell

Our church family is constantly changing.
People come and go.
Babies are born.
Children grow up.
People commit themselves to one another.
Loved ones and friends among us
come to the end of their lives.
Individuals move into our community and church life.
Others leave us, moving away to new places,
new experiences, and new opportunities.
It is important and right
that we recognize these times of passage,
of endings and beginnings.
Today we share the time of farewell
with [a friend/friends] who [is/are] leaving.
O God,
we give thanks
for remembered times when we, together,
have shared the life of faith.

We thank you for the moments we have shared with _____________ in worship, in learning, in service.
We pray that _________ will be aware of your Spirit’s guidance
as [he/she/they] move(s) to [a new and unknown place/new and unknown places], in the name of Jesus the Savior.


—adapted from An Order of Farewell for Church Members
© 1992 United Methodist Publishing House. Adapted by permission.


Internet Prayer Resources

Calvin Institute of Christian Worship

Christian Aid Organization

Church of England

Evangelical Lutheran Church America

Reformed Church in America

The Christian Resource Institute

United Methodist

Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod

Rev. Joyce Borger is senior editor of Reformed Worship and a resource development specialist at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.

Reformed Worship 72 © June 2004, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.