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Liturgy Prayers of the People

Intercessory prayer – for those who struggle to love neighbor and self

Beloved,
please join me in lifting up our prayers
to the Creator who loves us so joyfully
that when She finished birthing Her world,
she looked around and cried “Good, very good!” —
to the God who loves us so desperately
that They stripped off omnipotence
and folded Themself into a human body
just to live and love among us.
Together, let us pray:

For those who struggle both to love their neighbor and themselves
after being burned one too many times
by family members or lovers, friends or strangers, bullies or oppressors;

for those who have experienced so much trauma or abuse
that they’re not sure what love looks like
outside of manipulation and humiliation;

for those who fear the vulnerability that love requires
because they still bear wounds from last time they opened themselves,
or because they have been taught
in our world of toxic masculinity and rugged individualism
that to be vulnerable is a weakness to avoid,
we pray.

For those who have been made to feel unloveable
because of their race, their disability, their gender, their sexuality —
those who have been taught that God will only love them
if they play by the rules humans wrote and attributed to God,
if they contort themselves to fit into the status quo,
if they carve out parts of themselves and hide them away,
we pray.

For those who have been taught that love is something they earn
by wearing the right clothes and covering up all blemishes,
by losing that weight or gaining that muscle,
by getting good grades, or getting into the right school,
by having a successful career and making lots of money,
or by having kids and raising them perfectly,
by being nice, by being smart, by being flawless,
we pray.

O God whose blessing is not a trophy, but a gift,
whose love is not control but compassion,
whose power lies not in overpowering but in empowering others,
we offer you our gratitude for hearing every prayer
lifted up in community
or whispered by the cracked and battered heart.

Hold the unloved and love-wounded close;
suffuse them in your love so deep and true
that they can believe how loved they are
and live out that overflowing love among your Creation.

Amen.


I wrote this pastoral prayer for Grace Presbyterian in Tuscaloosa, AL, for a Lenten service centered around John 3:14-21 and particularly what it means for God to “so love the world.”

I had this quote from Kendra DeColo’s “After Seeing The Misfits” in mind as I wrote this prayer:

To believe in a god so obscene
she cannot stop loving us
is to believe in our own goodness, no matter
how rough and unearthed, that one day I will love
back with the indigence of my body. Will hear the roar begin
in my palms and catch fire.

FURTHER READING

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Reflection: God our Beloved

God our Beloved,
you hold out your hands
with the wounds that mark your solidarity with us,
to accept us into your arms as one spouse takes another.

We will cling to you without fear,
for you will never reject us,
and you will never swallow up our selfhood in yours. 
Rather, you delight in what we are,
the true selves you fashioned and free us to be.

May we graft our lives to yours,
while learning to love ourselves as we are.

May we be yours forever, liberated from fear and doubt
and thus empowered to be your love for the world.

Amen.