A Prayer for the Holy Land

The Spirit helps us in our weakness…for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with groaning too deep for words.” Romans 8:26

I don’t know about you but I have no idea how to pray right now. The relentless waves of violence, terror, and human atrocities taking place in the Holy Land are beyond the heart’s capacity to bear. I am embarrassed to admit that while I have been almost glued to the television watching the unfolding of these terrorist attacks, I have not actually been praying because I simply do not know how. I am profoundly aware that I need the Holy Spirit to help me in my weakness. As accustomed as I am to wordless prayer that relies on Holy Spirit’s groaning, right now it would also help to have some words.    

Maybe you feel the same way.   

As I have been holding my weakness and consternation in God’s presence, one of our alums, Rev. Christine Lee (TC18), priest-in-charge at St. Peter’s Chelsea in New York City, forwarded me this prayer, written by The Rev. Leyla Kamalick King, a Palestinian-American priest. The Anglican Archbishop of Jerusalem, Hosan Naoum (who oversees Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria), asked for churches across the Anglican communion to designate yesterday as a day of prayer and fasting for peace, reconciliation and an end to war. The Ahli Arab Hospital that was bombed yesterday is operated by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. The fact that this is the only Christian hospital in Gaza makes this request especially poignant.

If you, like me, are looking for a way to pray during these horrific days, let’s join together in spirit, in families, in small groups and in church gatherings to hold our own grieving hearts and the pain of the human community in God’s presence.

A Litany for the Holy Land

Written by The Rev. Leyla Kamalick King, Palestinian-American priest.

Surround us with your love as we pray for the Holy Land. Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

God of Righteousness, who demands that our worldly governors take up their responsibility to protect those in their charge and uphold the dignity of all human beings, pour your wisdom into the leaders of this world, especially Benjamin Netanyahu, the leaders of Hamas, and Joe Biden.

For all who bear such responsibility, that they may put the good of the whole over their own greed for power, Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

God of Compassion, who even in the darkest times, shows us your path: we give you thanks for all those who in the face of crisis wrought by evil-doers, work to help the helpless, to hold out hope to the desolate, to speak for the voiceless and to bring understanding and knowledge to a world darkened by ignorance and hate.

For our siblings who risk much to aid others, that their actions may be successful, and their words may be heard, Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

God of Mercy, who binds up the wounds of those who suffer, bless the victims of the consequences of fear and hate in the last week and over the past 75 years of conflict in the Holy Land: those injured and traumatized, those bereaved and grieving, those held as captives and prisoners, those who face deprivation and desperation because of systems of violence and oppression, so that they may move forward in this life standing firm in your truth and avoiding the temptation of vengeance.

For all whose lives are forever marked by suffering, that they may be blessed with the hope of your presence, Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

God of Life, whose faithfulness to us is never-ending, we remember before you those who have died by the violence that has become shockingly routine in your Holy Land; receive them into your heart where they may know the peace and joy of eternal life in you.

For all who have died, that they may rest in that place where pain is no more, Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

God of Justice, who calls us to uphold the dignity of every human being, every child of this earth, beloved of you: empower your Church to help you heal this terrible cycle of violence and revenge; give us courage to rise above our fear that nothing can be done in the face of the conflict and chaos of our own creating; grant us the conviction to advocate for change and to work for the establishment of your peace, your shalom, you salaam, in this broken world.

For your dream of justice and peace on earth, and for us, that we may take up your call to build it, Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

All this we pray in the name of the One who offered his life so that we might live, Jesus Christ. Amen.

2023. Used with permission.

Ruth Haley Barton

Ruth (Doctor of Divinity, Northern Seminary) is founder and chief essence officer of the Transforming Center. A teacher, seasoned spiritual director (Shalem Institute), and retreat leader, Ruth is the author of numerous books and resources on the spiritual life including Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Sacred Rhythms, Life Together in Christ, Pursuing God’s Will Together, Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Invitation to Retreat, and Embracing Rhythms of Work and Rest.
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Thank you for writing this blog and sharing the lament. Like you, I’ve felt speechless in the shadow of such trauma and devastation. Nothing I could ever say or do seems like enough to combat the darkness. I know God is aware of my grief and doesn’t need to hear words. However, it is healing and helps to have words to pray. Thank you.

Yes, it is healing and helpful to have words…. grateful we can share them together.

Thank you, Ruth for sharing this prayer. It resonates within me as I pray it daily. Written prayers like this one guide me to a deeper connection with our merciful Lord and with those suffering in the Holy Land. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

I am so glad to hear this. Thank you for sharing. The suffering continues and we need to keep praying.

Thank you so much, Ruth, for giving us words through this prayer, written by a woman who has so much more invested in this horror, than most of us do. A stirring openness to ALL under the care of God. Thank you, my friend.

You are so welcome, dear Ruth.

Thank you for this guide and way to join in prayer
Vernie Schorr Love

Grateful you are finding it helpful.

Our God is faithful to hear and comfort. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer. Amen

Amen. Amen. Amen.

My own spontaneous prayers often leave me feeling empty, but praying beautiful written prayers often fills my spirit. So grateful for the many beautiful ways to pray I have learned through the Transforming Center. Thank you Ruth for sharing this prayer.

Thanks for this encouraging word, Jeff. I love the ways we pray in the TC and don’t know where I’d be without it. As I sit with this prayer again this morning, I am struck by the depth and substance contained within each stanza. I am hoping we can all take some time moving through this prayer slowly, holding each area in God’s presence, allowing our own groans to join the groans and intercessions of the Holy Spirit and seeing what God does with that. I am stirred by the fact that this prayer names the leaders whose negotiations and actions will have such an impact on the outcomes here. Scripture instructs us to pray for our leaders and we must do that now.

Amen. Lord, have mercy.

Thank you! Lord, in your Mercy, hear our prayers!

Yes. Thank you.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers this night.

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