For the Martyred French Priest: Prayers from the BCP

If you follow the news, you'll find much to be sad about, things that have happened in the last few days and weeks, both at home and abroad. But I'm especially sad for the priest who was leading mass in France when terrorists attacked the church and killed him. His name was Father Jacques Hamel. He was 85 years old. A presumably peaceful, elderly pastor leading prayers. I wonder if they were praying for peace, for an end to violence in their country, for the comfort of the families of those lost less than two weeks before in the tragedy in Nice.

I think it's poignant that the day before Father Hamel's own martyrdom, he had celebrated the feast of Saint James, who was the first of Jesus' twelve disciples to be martyred. He went to mass the next morning to meet his own death at the hands of broken, confused people. I wonder if he felt compassion for them. Did he say "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do" ?

I would like to offer prayers for Father Hamel, this recent addition to the great cloud of witnesses. I feel sheepish because he'd been praying liturgy all his life, 85 years; and here I am a novice dipping my toes into the liturgy and history of faith in Jesus, "fooling with it" as Phyllis Tickle would say in her Tennessee way. So I offer these prayers from the Book of Common Prayer:

Almighty God, we remember before you today your faithful servant Jacques Hamel;
and we pray that, having opened to him the gates of larger life,
you will receive him more and more into your joyful service,
that, with all who have faithfully served you in the past,
he many share in the eternal victory of Jesus Christ our Lord;
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Amen (1)

Lord Jesus Christ, by your death you took away the sting of death:
Grant to us your servants so to follow in faith where you have led the way
that we may at length fall asleep peacefully in you and wake up in your likeness;
for your tender mercies' sake.
Amen (2)

(1) Collect for the Departed, p 253, Book of Common Prayer according to the Episcopal Church
(2) Burial II, p 505, Book of Common Prayer according to the Episcopal Church


For Alton Sterling and Philando Castile: Prayers from the BCP

I sat down yesterday to write a litany about Alton Sterling. To offer some mourning or lament or ask God for a fresh round of hope, a dose of something alive that might help. I had nothing. And then I looked at a news site this morning and discovered that another black man, Philando Castile, was killed last night, also by a cop.

Still I have nothing. Maybe tomorrow I will have a prayer to pray of my own. Not today.

So, I went to the BCP. That’s the Book of Common Prayer, for all the Protestant Evangelicals who, like me, had never seen a prayer book other than Psalms. There I found a few gems of helpful goodness that could .

I was especially inspired by a few phrases from a Prayer for Ordination of a Deacon, which says:

...[C]arry out in tranquillity the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord...  (p 540)

Racism and violence have grown old and must be made new. From the ground up, we need a new paradigm. We have outgrown them, but some parts of our society are not letting go; some are choosing to remain enemies, mired in corruption. Kyrie eleison.

This is, for me, the beauty of written prayers: to have somewhere to turn when my own emotions have overwhelmed me and dried up my ability to pray on my own; or when the thing I need to pray about is unthinkable. This is why I write prayers, and why we can lean on the prayer books that have been handed down to us. Pray with me now from the Book of Common Prayer*.

Prayer for the Human Family
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son;
Look with compassion on the whole human family;
take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts;
break down the walls that separate us;
unite us in bonds of love;
and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth;
that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen (p 815)

Prayer for the Future of the Human Race
O God our heavenly Father, you have blessed us and given us dominion over all the earth: Increase our reverence before the mystery of life and give us new insight into your purposes for the human race, and new wisdom and determination in making provision for its future in accordance with your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen ( p 828)

Here I have pulled out some lines from The Great Litany

O God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth,
Have mercy upon us.
O God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy upon us.
O God the Holy Ghost, Sanctifier of the faithful,
Have mercy upon us.

From all blindness of heart; from pride, vainglory, and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred, and malice; and from all want of charity,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From all oppression, conspiracy, and rebellion; from violence, battle, and murder; and from dying suddenly and unprepared,
Good Lord deliver us.

That it may please you to bless and keep all your people,
We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please you to make wars to cease in all the world; to give to all nations unity, peace, and concord; and to bestow freedom upon all peoples,
We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please you to have mercy upon all mankind,
We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please you to forgive our enemies, persecutors, and slanderers, and to turn their hearts,
We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please you to grant to all the faithful departed eternal life and peace,
We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
Have mercy upon us.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,
Grant us your peace.

Kyrie eleison. (Lord, have mercy upon us.)


Grant us grace to entrust Alton Sterling and Philando Castile to your never-failing love; receive them into the arms of your mercy, and remember them according to the favor which you bear unto your people.
Amen (from “Burial I” p 481)


Thanks Be To God
for the collection of prayers of the saints throughout the ages
which give a light in dark times.

*I use The Book Of Common Prayer according to the use of The Episcopal Church
Oxford University Press, New York.