Category: Prayers

An Elephant Called Peace

by Elli Atchison, World Vision

Happy New Year!  I love the fresh start of a new calendar.  It holds 365 opportunities to pursue self-improvement and life’s ambitions.  There are many things I want to accomplish in 2015. Like many of you, my resolutions include goals for organization and a healthier lifestyle. I want to travel to new places and make some amazing memories with my family. However, my list has one item that might not be on yours. I plan to eat an elephant called peace.

Before you get the wrong idea, please give me the chance to explain. I happen to adore elephants. I have observed them on safari Zimbabwe, and marveled at the truly amazing creation of God that they are. I am not promoting poaching them in the wild.  I am speaking of the old adage “The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.”  Of course this wisdom is not in the Bible and did not come from Solomon or Jesus.  But, I think we can still apply it to the Holy Land in 2015.

These words are obviously an analogy for a HUGE goal that seems to be overwhelming and impossible. Working for peace and justice in the Holy Land can often feel like this. It is something that has been on my heart since my first visit three years ago. I wanted to do something to make a difference, but I just didn’t know where to begin. Maybe you share this sentiment, too?

I have found my starting point with World Vision. For me, this organization offers a variety of significant opportunities to work for peace in Israel and Palestine. First, is their program of child sponsorship. For just a small monthly commitment I can give hope to a child in living in the West Bank or Gaza. Not only does this give the opportunity to build a personal relationship with my child and her family, it promotes specific community development projects that benefit all families in the area.

World Vision has also taught me how to advocate for peace in the political arena. With the advocacy team, I have visited my elected officials in Washington, D.C. and voiced my concern for my country’s support for the people of the region. I learned that constituents get some respect when they show up and speak up. I plan to do more of this in 2015.

Finally, World Vision gives me a platform that I can use to help inform others. In the spring, I will be joining a group of women to tour the Holy Land. This will be the first visit for many of them. This trip will give them the opportunity to see for themselves what life is like for Palestinians and Israelis. I am confident that they will come away with a more holistic understanding of the situation. Hopefully, then, these ladies will also share in responsibility to work for peace and reconciliation in the future. I believe that travel is truly one of the best forms of education and diplomacy.

There are many fine organizations that are diligently working to bring hope, peace, and justice to the Holy Land. In this New Year, I would strongly encourage you to find one and really commit to it. Get to know the people working in the organization. Volunteer your time to promote their efforts. Give money to help support important projects that make a difference in the lives of those who need your help.

Don’t get overwhelmed by the big goal to bring peace to the Holy Land. Simply choose one worthy organization and support it fully—bit by bit, day by day, prayer by prayer.  There are many recipes for this elephant called peace. We all just have to pick up our forks and start eating—one bite at a time.

 

Dear God,

We thank You for the promise of Your guiding presence in the New Year. We know that the love we feel for the Holy Land cannot even come close to Yours. This sacred land belongs to You, and You alone.

And all the people that call this land home are so precious to you. The heartbreaking memories of last year’s war and violence are still fresh in our minds.  The need for peace has never been greater, and its reality feels very far away as we enter into 2015.

As disciples of Jesus, we are called to work for this harvest of peace.  We give You our prayers, and we give You our promise to pursue peace in this New Year. In return we ask for Your blessing.

Open our hearts and open our minds to Your great thoughts and Your better ways.  Order our steps and remove obstacles from our path. Your Word gives us hope that the small efforts that we make together will be multiplied for Your glory. Let us not grow weary in doing good works, but take each day as a fresh opportunity to be Your hands and feet in serving others in love.

Let this New Year be the one that brings the peace of Your kingdom to the Holy Land.

Amen.

 

Join us in the Holy Land! This April, World Vision is hosting women from around the United States on an 8-day tour of the land where Jesus lived, breathed, and did ministry. Though this trip is specifically for women, we take several trips throughout the year in which men and women are invited. Contact Natalie Wisely, World Vision’s Advocacy Coordinator- Middle East, at nwisely@worldvision.org for more information and registration details. 

The Perfect Gift

by Elli Atchison, World Vision

There are so many wonderful things about Christmas. My favorite parts are the beautiful decorations, holiday music, and sharing good cheer with family and friends. However, shopping is the part of Christmas I honestly do not enjoy. Finding the perfect gift is an almost impossible quest that I often dread. It is during these stressful moments that I try to reflect on some of the people who were on God’s list that first Christmas. What were the perfect presents He chose for each of them?

The first person on God’s list was Mary. She was a young girl from a humble family, living in the small town of Nazareth. Mary was, of course, engaged to be married to Joseph and probably dreaming about what life would be like after she became his wife.  So, when a messenger came to Mary unexpectedly and revealed that God wanted to change her plans, I am sure she was frightened and confused. This stranger calmed her fears, and Mary said “Yes” to God’s call.

I think, in that moment, God’s perfect gift to Mary was the courage and strength she would need to be the mother of Jesus. For, as we know, this would not be easy.

The second person on God’s Christmas list was Joseph. He was a carpenter. Scripture tells us that he was a kind and honorable man. God’s plan was for Joseph, a good and righteous man, to be His Son’s earthly father. He would be a great example for Jesus to follow as the boy came of age and grew in character. So, in a dream, God told Joseph that the special child in Mary’s womb would one day save the world.

What was the gift that Joseph most needed from God? I believe it was faith and trust. He needed the faith to really believe that God had spoken to him and to believe that Mary’s impossible story was the truth.

God also had something special in mind for the shepherds. This group of guys lived on the outskirts of town and were not exactly high society. They spent their days walking the hills and nights sleeping in caves, always protecting their herds. What God had in mind for them was a VIP invitation to a miracle. They were among the first to see the precious baby lying in a manger.

Then there were the three wise men. They were sophisticated scholars, wealthy, and already had the finest of everything. However, God knew there was one thing even they could use—the Perfect Gift, a Savior. This Savior was born for everyone—not just the Jews, but the Gentiles too. They would visit this child and know that there was something very unique about him. They would take this knowledge with them and begin to spread the word.

The Perfect Gift is not just for shepherds, wise men, Mary, and Joseph. It is for you and for me and for all the world.  It is one-size-fits-all. It doesn’t need batteries, it won’t get outdated, and it never wears out. It always brings hope, peace, joy, and most of all love. What an exciting surprise to find all of this in one perfect gift—a baby named Emmanuel, “God with us.”  He came down from heaven on that first Christmas night and changed the world forever.

During this Christmas season, join me in once again turning our eyes to the Holy Land; the place where this beautiful story began. We continue to pray for hope and joy for all the peoples that live there. We pray for courage and strength for peacemakers who continue to seek a just and lasting peace in the region. And we pray for God to do another miracle for the people of this land, to bring peace and joy and love to those broken by pain and conflict.

 

Dear God,

The season of Christmas is such a special gift.  Thank You for helping us to reflect on what really makes it perfect, Your Son, Jesus. In Him we have all we could ever want or need. His presence in our hearts is actually the perfect present we can give everyone on our list this Christmas. Help us shine like the bright star over Bethlehem and show a hurting world the light of your kingdom and the love that only He can bring. We pray that love is felt deeply and closely by all the people of the Holy Land and around the world this Christmas season. Overwhelm them with Your peace and love. Provide comfort for their pain. And bring hope to the hopeless.

Amen

A Hope that Builds Bridges

by Elli Atchison, World Vision

While the Holy Land was again experiencing acts of violence and terror, a varied group of people gathered in a church in Orlando, Florida.

There were:

  • men and women,
  • people of color and whites,
  • Christians, Muslims, and Jews,
  • Americans, Israelis, and Palestinians,
  • Pastors and an Imam,
  • a CEO and unemployed,
  • children and elderly,
  • people from all walks of life,
  • most of them strangers with only one thing in common

They were all seeking a word of HOPE for a land that is often characterized as hopeless.

This gathering was one of the final stops on a two-week “Hope for the Holy Land” tour that traveled across the United States, discussing what it means to be Pro-Israeli, Pro-Palestinian, Pro-Peace, Pro-Justice, and Pro-Jesus. The diverse group in Orlando all joined together in prayer before listening to the perspectives shared by the three keynote speakers.

Mae Cannon, an American pastor, who leads World Vision’s advocacy work, told the history of the land. She helped participants understand that the present-day conflict has not always been the case. Not so long ago the Holy Land was a place where Arabs and Jews were neighbors and friends.

Danny Sherman gave an Israeli perspective. He is a former major in the Israeli Defense Forces and has worked for the Israeli Human Rights Organization B’Tselem. Sherman spoke about the building of the massive separation barrier that divides the land and its people. When the wall was built, it gave the Jewish people a false sense of security that they did not have to deal with the problem on the other side. Now, he believes Israeli society is waking up to the sense of reality that things cannot continue as they are.

Finally, Sami Awad spoke. He is the director of Holy Land Trust, a Palestinian organization that promotes a non-violent end to the occupation and peaceful coexistence with Israelis. As a Christian, he is challenged on a daily basis by the difficult directive that Jesus gave to “love your enemies.” Every day, he asks himself the question: “What would Jesus do?”

Three people, three realities, three lives engaged in working for peace.

The diverse group attending asked tough questions, some that were even potentially offensive to others in the room. There was debate and heated discussion. But as the dialogue progressed, listening ears began to open minds to another point of view. Opinions began to soften, and the labels that defined the individuals at the beginning of the evening, began to fall to the floor.

What remained was a realization that all people gathered in the church had far more in common than what divided them. All have the same basic needs, desires, and a personal faith in God. When a little time was taken to listen and talk, it wasn’t so hard to see the image of God in the person that looked so different on the other side of the aisle. When this image was appreciated, that was the moment when HOPE began to sprout in the hearts of all.

It is this kind of HOPE that tears down walls, and builds bridges. It is this kind of HOPE that was filling the hearts of that group of people in Orlando. With time and people truly seeking peace and the help of God, it is this kind of HOPE that might be possible for the Holy Land.

 

Dear God,

It is only through knowing You and recognizing Your presence in this world that Your people can find HOPE. You created us all in Your image and out of Your unconditional love. In the Old Testament, we are reminded that You are a God who loves justice and mercy and calls us to walk humbly with You. In the New Testament we see how Jesus looked beyond stereotypes and social classes to seek out a Samaritan woman at the well and give her HOPE that life could be better in You. It is through Your Holy Spirit that we, too, can be empowered to follow these examples and seek out peace in our lives, with HOPE in our hearts.

Help us remember that peace will only come when we are truly seeking Your will and Your ways.  Open our hearts and minds to reach out to those who think differently than we do. Strengthen our faith to believe that there is HOPE for the Holy Land when we pursue You and recognize Your image in all those that we meet.

Amen.

 

A Prayer for Daoud

by Natalie Wisely, World Vision

A month after the destruction at Tent of Nations, we are still in prayer for Daoud. For those not yet familiar with this event, please see our previous post, here.

We are grateful for Jeremy Rodgers, a friend, filmmaker, and advocate for peace, who traveled to the Holy Land and created a short film on the events that occurred. This video allows Daoud an opportunity to share this struggle with his brothers and sisters in Christ.

View the film at:  http://vimeo.com/98071842

Let us continue in prayer for Daoud. That he may have perseverance, hope, and the love that only Christ can give as he continues his ministry and seeks to protect his land.  Let us also pray for all people of the Holy Land, Muslim, Christian, and Jew, that they might enjoy a life free of violence, fear, and want.

Book of Common Prayer, Prayers and Thanksgivings, 33. For Cities

Heavenly Father, in your Word you have given us a vision of that holy City to which the nations of the world bring their glory: Behold and visit, we pray, the cities of the earth. Renew the ties of mutual regard which form our civic life. Send us honest and able leaders. Enable us to eliminate poverty, prejudice, and oppression that peace may prevail with righteousness, and justice with order, and that men and women from different cultures and with differing talents may find with one another the fulfillment of their humanity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Lenten Prayer of Reflection

by Natalie Wisely, World Vision

During this season of Lent, Christians around the globe are drawn into closer communion with God through worship, prayer, and fasting. During this time of reflection, we pray you are comforted by the knowledge that God is the one who provides peace, who creates beauty from ashes.

In Israel and Palestine, there have been decades of mourning due to the brokenness that comes from neighbors living in conflict and at times, it feels hopeless. But we are convicted that we cannot give up and must continue to work and pray for peace in this land.

Taking this into consideration, we ask that you join us in the prayer below – that there will be peace in the conflicts of the world, peace in the turmoil of our own hearts, and that we will have the courage and conviction to continue on in this effort until it is completed.

Anglican Prayer, Author Unknown

Jesus, giver of peace, we look for your gift amidst the conflicts of our time.

You are the Saviour who searches for us,
the Friend who longs for us,
the Redeemer who strives for us,
and we set our troubled hearts before you.
Turn from us despondency,
and keep us searching for the way that leads to peace;
Turn from us disillusion,
and keep us longing for the healing that makes for peace;
Turn from us despair, and keep us striving for the change that will build peace;
until our hopes find their fulfillment in your gift made real.

 

 

 

 

 

Hope for the Holy Land

by Mae Elise Cannon, World Vision

hope-holy-land-video-lgWorld Vision recently completed the Winter 2014 Hope for the Holy Land Tour!

Visiting churches in Illinois, Washington, and Oregon, and in Canada from British Columbia to Manitoba, we’ve been blessed and encouraged by the church’s compassion and enduring desire to see peace and justice in the Holy Land.

We’re also encouraged by the many Christian voices in North American who are speaking out towards this end. These communities have welcomed us with open arms; we want to thank them, and continue to pray for these communities.

Father,
We ask that you would bless communities
as they continue their discussions on the Israeli – Palestinian conflict.
As we know it is an extremely impassioned issue,
we ask that you would extend your grace,
and be with these congregations through their conversations and discernment.
We continue to pray for the church’s call to be peacemakers,
and ask that you would bless communities as they pursue this end.
We ask this in the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Amen.

Prayer for the Peace Process

by Craig Swandby, World Vision

Though many Israelis, Palestinians, and United States stakeholders have watched U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s shuttle diplomacy with suspicion, I can’t help but acknowledge that his relentless efforts are laudable, and also appropriate. The status quo of violence, instability, and injustice cannot continue. It must end.

In the coming weeks, Kerry will publicly reveal his plan—the framework agreement. Cynicism and skepticism persist, and communities are preparing to defend their interests should the Kerry plan fall short of their expectations.

The stakes are high, and we must go before the Lord in prayer. We pray for lasting peace and justice for our neighbors and fellow Christians and all others in the Holy Land.

Merciful Lord,
Grant our leaders in government peace and rest as they navigate these troubled waters.
Grant them wisdom, determination, and courage, that they may pursue a plan that is just and considers the fears, hopes, and aspirations of all people in the Holy Land
We ask for peace, justice, security, and dignity in the Holy Land.

Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn
but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the
strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that
all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. 
Amen.

Book of Common Prayer, Prayers for the World, for Peace

The Archbishop Oscar Romero Prayer

Thoughts on working for peace:

A Prayer

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.

Nothing we do is complete,
which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything,
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders;
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future that is not our own.

Amen.

*This prayer was composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, drafted for a homily by Card. John Dearden in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests. As a reflection on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Romero, Bishop Untener included in a reflection book a passage titled “The mystery of the Romero Prayer.” The mystery is that the words of the prayer are attributed to Oscar Romero, but they were never spoken by him.  (source)

Advent: Season of Hope

by Mae Elise Cannon, World Vision

Advent is the season of hope. Hope in eager anticipation; waiting to celebrate the incarnation of God manifested in human form through the birth of Jesus. Hope in present circumstances; the small moments of heavenly triumph where the kingdom of God breaks forth into the dark realities of this world. Hope in the future; as we wait for the redemption of the world and the second coming of Christ Jesus. We hope for what is yet to come.

As we enter into this season of hope, we are reminded to celebrate, worship, and rejoice. The Psalmist speaks forth these words: “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad.” All of creation will cry out, singing for joy, recognizing the saving power of Jesus, for he does not leave us abandoned in our earthly circumstances, but He comes. He dwells with us. He judges in righteousness. He redeems. He is the manifestation of hope.

As we turn our eyes to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, we cannot help but be grieved about the current realities plaguing the Holy Land. Both Israelis and Palestinians live with an uncertain future; will peace ever come? Where is hope manifested? Will only evil triumph?

The Jewish community has suffered great losses at the hand of global anti-Semitism. Palestinians continue to feel displaced and without a homeland to call their own. Increased militarization causes great suffering and loss of life. The political future remains uncertain, and the people in the region suffer the consequences.

Yet, we have great hope in this: we worship a God for whom nothing is impossible. We believe in the God of the universe, the Lord of all things. There is no conflict, brokenness, evil that is too great for Him to overcome. The Creator is the Lord of love and the Lord of life. He is great, powerful, and mighty. He breathes air into a valley of dry bones and they come to life. He is the God of birth, death, and resurrection. He overcomes all things. He triumphs over evil. He sustains us in the broken places and gives us hope for a new future.

In this spirit of hope, may we together look toward a new reality for the Holy Land: a future where Israeli and Palestinian children might live side by side in prosperity with great hope for what tomorrow may bring.

Pray with Us:

“Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in his faithfulness.”
Psalm 96:11-13 [NIV]

A Prayer by Rev. Doris Warrell:

Search us God and declare that there is hope for us;
Let us rejoice for we know our past and choose a new way;
A way that is of Your Spirit, a way that brings forth songs of joy, peace and love.

Originally posted on Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) 2014 Advent reflections

Prayers from DRC

by Craig Swandby, World Vision

The Prayers of the Church

This Anglican prayer was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo[1] (DRC). Our brothers and sisters in the DRC continue to pray in the face of violence, fear, and want. We look to them for wisdom, that we might know how to pray over them and the Middle East.

Let us pray for the Church and for the world, and let us thank God for his goodness.
Good Lord, hear us.

May the leaders of the DRC, the Holy Land, and the Middle East rule with justice.
Good Lord, hear us.

May righteousness be a shield and protector.
Good Lord, hear us.

May their countries be at peace; and the people be blessed.
Good Lord, hear us.

May the herds increase; and the fish in the lakes be many.
Good Lord, hear us.

May the fields yield abundantly; may the harvests be great.
Good Lord, hear us.

May all artisans and traders see the benefit of their labours.
Good Lord, hear us.

May we and our enemies turn from strife and seek peace.
Good Lord, hear us.

May the strength of the Lord support all who are sick.
Good Lord, hear us.

May the Lord’s love comfort the bereaved, the oppressed, widows, orphans, and the lonely.
Good Lord, hear us.

May the paths and roads of the world be swept clean of all dangers.
Alleluia. The Lord of mercy is with us. Amen.

Let us continue to pray for ourselves
and for our brothers and sisters…
In a time of quiet, some may pray out loud, one at a time, and others may pray in secret.

Our trust is in you, merciful Lord.
We rely on you alone, O God of love. Amen.

[1] http://www.congochurchassn.org.uk/liturgy.htm

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