Patreon Only: Litany for Grieving

I recently sat with my grandmother in the last days of her life. My mom and I were there holding her hand as she took her last breaths. It was a profound experience that has brought me to think about all the forms grief takes, and my own experience of grieving - how unpredictable it is, how sometimes consuming, how suddenly past only to reappear again. We grieve events, losses, trauma, time passing, people passing… and I’m coming to believe that grieving is not just some mental or emotional space that we are plunged into by life events; it is also a skill we can practice and hold space for. And the only way to get through this life whole is to learn the skill. If we can’t accept pain and process it through appropriate grief, we will be constantly resisting the experience of life. Through grief, we learn to integrate experiences we (dualistically) judge to be “good” and “bad”, bringing them into wholeness. The more life I experience, the more I’m convinced that learning to hold the tension of grief is as powerful a life skill as, say, positive thinking or good communication or self-care. Here's a prayer for skill-building, available on my Patreon page.

If my work has value to you and your community, please consider becoming a supporter on Patreon, where you get access to exclusive litanies and content. This month’s Patreon-only litany is Litany for Grieving.

Litany for Dark Days

The prophet Amos says the  “Day of the Lord is darkness, not light, and gloom with no brightness in it.” This week's Lectionary reading includes that passage from Amos 5, as well as others referenced in this prayer.



God, we are weary, weary.
The days are dark.
All day long we contend with evildoers.
We wake to discover more death.

We know that when the days seem dark
We must persevere;
That discipleship is costly,
And the risks of faith are great.

We may be outcast.*
We may be silenced.
We may be slandered.
We may be killed unmercifully. *
But we know that, despite the shame and chaos of the hour,
You are still our help and deliverer (1).

Help us, as we go along, to keep our lamps filled and trimmed (2)
That we may wait with hope
In a circle of light -
Awake and ready for action (3).
We are poor and needy,
Yet still in your care (1).

These are days of darkness and change,
The Day of the Lord, unfolding; (4)
So. Let justice roll down like waters,
And righteousness like an everflowing stream (5).

Amen


1)Psalm 70:5
2)Matthew 25:4-7
3)Matthew 25:13
4)Amos 5:20
5)Amos 5:24

*as the pastor and prophet Jonathan Martin was last week cast out of Liberty University for speaking against the actions of its administration and calling for a prayer vigil
*as were the 26 people (plus 20 more injured) mowed down with an assault rifle as they gathered for worship this past Sunday. And the 58 (plus 489 wounded) the month prior in Las Vegas.

Litany for Lament

God, our hearts are weary,
Broken, and sad.
Grief follows us;
Pain is our companion on the road.

We are divided: parents against children,
Brother against brother
Sister against sister,
Half-nation against half-nation.

The sins of our past have revisited us.
They were just beneath the surface,
Covered in a coat of whitewash.
We are newly aware of our complicity.

We mourn our blindness.
We regret our apathy.
We weep at the state of our world.
We wish we had done things differently.
We grieve the wrongs done by us and by others
And reap a harvest of shame.

We open our hearts before you;
We are vulnerable and at your mercy.
Let your will be done to us.
Refine us in your fire.

We purpose ourselves now to walk steadfastly and humbly
Through the chafing grief
And the ache of suffering,
Out to where the mercy falls. (1)


Notes:
Lament has a long tradition among faith cultures, Christianity included. Lament is simply being present to suffering and present to the expression of grief. Happy-go-lucky Evangelicalism has largely forgotten it, and has instead taught its followers to shame those who engage in it. I think we would do well to remember our roots, to go to the book of Lamentations, the book of Job, the Psalms, even to the lamentations of Christ himself (2).

Lament is an important part of the transformation of pain. Richard Rohr says, “If you do not transform your pain, you will surely transmit it to those around you and even to the next generation” (3). I think we have an opportunity here: to lower our defenses and allow ourselves to bear witness to our pain and that of others, and to stop disbelieving others when they tell us they are hurting because we are either a) disconnected from suffering (i.e. “stuffing it”) or b) consumed by it because we’ve never authentically grieved.

In terms of current events: Lament is not a partisan effort. On both sides of the political aisle we have a lot to lament. This isn’t new, but it does seem clearer now in the wake of the most divisive election of my lifetime. Maybe if we hadn’t forgotten how to lament, to really sit with grief and pain for a hot minute, just long enough to let it pierce our armor, instead of only ever reacting to them; we would not be finding ourselves in the situation we are in.

What I’m saying is this: authentic lament might be a checkpoint on the road to reconciliation. It might be one of the keys to transforming our collective pain into something redemptive and beautiful.

  1. “Where the Mercy Falls” is the title of a song by David Ruis and Bob Hartry.

  2. See Matthew 26

  3. Rohr, Richard. _The Naked Now_



 

Litany for Grief

I am hoping this prayer will be of use to those looking for resources for expressing grief and lamentation in a congregational or small group setting; but I also hope it will be helpful to some individuals experiencing personal grief. The opening lines are taken from a song I co-wrote called "I Cannot Live Without You" published by Vineyard, which can be found here.


God of Mercy, God of Tenderness, God of Nurture, God of Love
God-Provider, God-Comforter, God-Sustainer, God-with-us:
Be with us now in our mourning, and in our sadness.

We acknowledge that the only way out of our grief is through it.
We acknowledge that we must pay attention to our emotions in order to be whole persons.
We acknowledge that we would often rather avoid our sadness than pay attention to it.
We acknowledge that grief can be sticky, unpredictable, and hard to shake off.
We acknowledge that there are some mountains we cannot move under our own power.

Over and over, You have shown us that You are good, and Your love endures forever.
We know that You lovingly show us this often, because we are apt to forget.
We know that Your goodness does not necessarily safeguard us from pain. 
We know that our pain does not negate Your goodness.

Help us to walk faithfully through our pain and sadness.
Help us to engage in lamentation, in the tradition of the saints who came before us.
Help us to remember that our anger, sadness, disappointment, and grief do not put you off.
Help us to be moving forward:
     Toward growth
     Toward wisdom
     Toward emotional health
     Toward wholeness
     Toward reconciliation between our faith and our emotions.

We are helpless, and require Christ’s assistance.
We are undone, and require re-making.
We are brokenhearted, and require healing.
We are poor in spirit, and in need of the kingdom of Heaven.

Amen



 

Lent Series: Litany for Good Friday, "Death"

Great God, we acknowledge that we are not always able to recognize Your ways as good
We confess that we are, at times, confounded;
As on Good Friday, when we commemorate the death of one so dear to us
The Savior, Christ the King.

As a seed must pass through death to sprout new life,
So Jesus Christ has passed into death.
Taking the nature of a human, a servant
He made himself nothing
He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death
Even death on a cross!

For three days, we wait with him, for death to accomplish its purpose;
For Christ’s sacrifice to be made meaningful;
For Christ to re-imagine death.
We grieve, even while we are hopeful.

We wait, and as the stones seal Christ’s body in the tomb, even then we say:
“Oh Death, Where is Your sting? O Grave, Where is your victory?”
And we acknowledge Your good way, the confounding way of obedience to death
That brings us toward Life and Hope.

Amen