My prayer for the church (for you, for me)
Lord, I am tired of all the ugliness I see in the world. I’m frustrated by the way some people use your Word as a weapon. I’m ashamed by the way we treat each other. I’m horrified by the hatred and violence. I’m disappointed by the lack of authenticity and by the differences that once made us interesting and unusual but now simply drive us apart.
It makes me wonder what in the world I am supposed to do. Where—and if—I belong.
I want to believe in You, and I do—but I see people professing to have faith in You who do not offer the kind of grace that You do. Who condemn rather than embrace. Who don’t seem to represent what I think Christianity is supposed to stand for.
So I have to ask: do I have it wrong? Who or what is the problem, and how do we fix it? I want to be part of the solution, because I want to be part of Your Church. I need the relationship with others. I need the teaching. I need help living this life of faith, but sometimes it’s hard to want to be a part of it because it doesn’t look like I think it should. Am I partially to blame for any of it?
Because I am far from perfect. I try to overcome it, but my gut instinct is often judgmental and unkind. I am no better than anyone else.
I mourn, overwhelmed by sadness that You are being misrepresented. Worried that we, as a church, have gotten so much wrong. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying the church is the cause of all of our problems, or even that it’s necessarily the cause of any of them. The online world is suffused with people expressing the damage done to them by the Church. Whether it was the Church as a whole or a single individual, whether the actions were done with good intentions or were purposely cruel—whatever the situation is—the pain is real and it remains.
Through it all, I’m having a hard time relating to the religion I’m supposed to identify with.
I say that with love, fully aware that I’m in no position to judge, fully prepared to offer grace. The whole point of grace is that we can’t earn it, yet it’s given freely anyway. I’ve received it, and I want others to experience that, too.
As the Church, we’ve done some things right, and we’ve gotten other things wrong. So, dear Lord, I ask You to help us. Help the Church get it right. Help us welcome people and show them who You are by the way we treat each other. Help us dig deeper into Your word and fight fiercely to grow our relationships with You so that we will be changed, and through that, so that others will know that the gospel message is true and that Jesus is real. Help us to teach Your truth, as You reveal it, and not to promote personal agendas. If change is needed, work inside each of our hearts individually, and let the enormity of our love for You prompt us to do better.
Because here’s the reality: The Holy Spirit is what changes us. Not someone else telling us we are sinners. Not someone pointing out scriptures we may or may not be violating. Fear and anger and judgment are not strong motivators—well, they might cause us to run away from something, but when it comes to running towards something, we need to feel love. No one held up a sign when I joined the church saying “You’re welcome here—after you make some changes.”
And oh how grateful I am for that.
We don’t always have the right answers. But we have a God who does.
So help us, God, to lean on You. To seek Your direction before we act. To receive Your mercy so that we know how to offer it. To love You without limit, freely, and in so doing, to shine that glorious light of Your love into the darkness.
And never, ever let us take for granted the depths of the love You hold for us. Your Love is what inspires us. It’s what teaches us, comforts us, and sustains us. It’s the basis for all that we are and all that we have been given, and I pray that You will show us how to make it universal. For everyone. In all situations. In every possible way. Your love for us is at the very core of who we are. It defines us. Or it should. So let it also be the spring from which everything we do bursts forth.
Let the Church accurately represent You. Let us be known for our love. Let us reflect who You are. And, please, let us all—every last one of us—be changed in the process. By You. For You. With You.